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San Diego Fast Food Workers Join National Protest For Higher Wages

Above: Wendy's employee Debra Flores looks behind her at her place of employment while addressing the crowd at a rally calling for higher wages, Aug. 29, 2013.

Aired 8/29/13 on KPBS News.

The people who pour your Frosty or wrap your Egg McMuffin live off a minimum wage income. They rallied in San Diego and across the country to say that's not enough.

— Dressed in her Wendy's polo shirt, Debra Flores got to work early on Thursday to join dozens of activists rallying in front of her place of employment. The demonstration is part of a national call for higher wages.

"Right now, we get minimum wage, so $8 an hour," said Flores, a young mother of a 2-year-old daughter.

Councilman David Alvarez calls to increase wages for employees at fast food restaurants at a rally in downtown San Diego, Aug. 29, 2013.

If she works her scheduled four-hour shifts four days a week, that amounts to a little more than $500 per month, before taxes. To help cover her expenses, such as her phone bill and child's diapers, she works an overnight shift at a second job and relies on financial assistance from her mother.

However, research shows that's still not enough.

According to the Insight Center's self-sufficiency standards, an adult with a pre-school aged child living in San Diego County needs around $4,000 per month — or approximately $24 an hour — to get by.

By her own estimate, Flores said she makes roughly a quarter of that.

San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, who attended the rally, said this is a wrong and that needs to be corrected.

"It's time for us to do what's right for all people — to give them some justice for the work that they do," he said.

Speaking into a megaphone before the growing crowd, Alvarez recalled his own mother's time working at a fast food restaurant. Spending hours on your feet for such little pay isn't easy work, Alvarez said.

"Sometimes it's not on your feet, sometimes it's on your knees cleaning the floors of these places where people come and eat," he said.

The rally in downtown San Diego was part of a 35-city grassroots campaign to put pressure on employers to increase wages.

A representative from Wendy's did not return requests for comment.

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Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | August 29, 2013 at 9:19 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Let's see, $15 Big Macs, $5 tacos at Taxo Bell (beans extra) and everyone part time with no health insurance. Oh, with those prices close half the fast food places, so less jobs. Michelle Obama will be so happy that everyone will not be eating so much fast food and Barack will be so happy that more and more will be on food stamps - seems like a perfect solution. As an added bonus those evil corporations will stop making profits and the rich will be made to suffer! Why not $25 an hour since we are ignoring reality.

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Avatar for user 'trolley1'

trolley1 | August 29, 2013 at 10:02 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

This is an area that needs to be addressed, fast food is pretty good at exploiting workers with low wages and benefits. So in reality how can someone really make ends meet in San Diego. Only one In-N-Out Burger is doing something positive about this.

Now lets look at retail and the biggest and largest exploiter is Wal-Mart, where they continue to offer low wages, very little full-time positions and continue to block anything that will better their employees. Union or non-union.

Look at the trolley system here in San Diego. UPS (Universal Protection) and MTS continue to use security guards to enforce the rules and provide safety and protection to the passengers to the public train system here. But they are paid very little wages, but are expected to do police work? With no holiday pay, sick pay or support from either company. This has been going since 1981.

And MTS has been notorious to their employees that run the rail and bus system here, these workers are what make the trolley and buses run. Since MTS took over they have constantly cutting back on their benefits, little to no pay raises, increasing costs and offering very little health care benefit choices. Constantly letting workers go for any reason that can deem legitimate.

The problem is San Diego and the people that run the city. They are an anti-labor town, their mentality is "fire person and we'll hire another for less wages," because people need a job. So how can this broken labor/wage system be fixed that will benefit everyone who lives and works here?

Just a thought.

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Avatar for user 'RichardRider'

RichardRider | August 30, 2013 at 7:42 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

The Great San Diego Fast Food Strike is now done. Check the results of this much-ballyhooed event.

There was one well-orchestrated "picketing" protest in a city of 1.4 million people. But few fast food workers constituted the truly pathetic 100 person San Diego turnout.

It was the usual cabal of aging hippies, young college economic illiterates ("People Over Profits" -- when the increased cost would be passed through to the CUSTOMERS), SEIU labor members (NOT in the fast food business) and a handful of OFF-DUTY fast food workers (three claimed to actually be on strike, but likely were not).

Sadly, the press treated this as a major event. But it was DEFINITELY not a "strike."

By any reasonable standard, it was a well-funded, hyper-hyped bust.

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Avatar for user 'RichardRider'

RichardRider | August 30, 2013 at 7:46 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

When the cameras pulled back, it was apparent that there was almost as much press there as there were protesters. Hats off to SEIU for pulling off the con.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | August 30, 2013 at 8:37 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

if this goes though, it will be a boon to the sit down establishments where the workers get tips and work for very little hourly wages

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | August 30, 2013 at 9:59 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

It always amazes me how many people only see direct costs of things and not indirect costs that have much broader implications.

For example, with healthcare - those opposed to government supplementation of healthcare for the poor seem to be content with paying MORE tax payer money to treat the systemic problems that result from tens of millions of unhealthy working poor people who lose productivity and let treatable medical conditions fester until they become costly medical emergencies we all pay for.

It's as if, out of spite, those against national healthcare are saying they want to pay MORE and make our society LESS COMPETITIVE so they can avoid giving a poor person a "handout".

That's pretty sick and twisted thinking.

The national minimum wage which has not moved in years, is not keeping up with inflation, and is stalled while the profits of the wealthiest 1% skyrocket each year is not good for the country as a whole.

Plutocracy and a withering middle class in favor of a super-rich ruling elite is a recipe for corruption and erosion of civil society, yet many people are just too narrow-minded to see broader implications and instead get on this irrelevant mantra of "I don't want to pay for them".

Well guess what, I didn't want to pay for an unnecessary Iraq War that cost trillions, but some of my tax money went there didn't it?

We need to invest in the poor and healthcare is a RIGHT.

We will not and cannot remain the world's hegemon without providing healthcare for ALL.

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Avatar for user 'twells'

twells | August 30, 2013 at 10:31 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Having very little skill means you cannot demand a higher wage. If these workers want higher wages, get higher skills.

It would be an interesting to see if minimum wage did get pushed to $15, would automation be a viable alternative to low- no-skilled workers? $15/hr would be a salary that someone skilled in the oversight of robotics could command.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | August 30, 2013 at 10:50 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

PDSD "We need to invest in the poor and healthcare is a RIGHT."

Please cite.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | August 30, 2013 at 12:20 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

"An adult with a pre-school aged child living in San Diego County needs around $4,000 per month — or approximately $24 an hour — to get by."


$48,000 a year?!?! LAUGHABLE!!!

You could easily "get by" on half of that. This is all just about GREED.

Greedy corporations.

Greedy workers.

Greedy unions.

But there is a simple solution to all this. Stop working for McDonalds. Either look for manual labor outside the disgusting, horrific fast food industry or improve your skills.

I have no sympathy for those who work in fast food.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | August 30, 2013 at 12:35 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Benz, I consider healthcare to be a basic fundamental necessity for society, something the government must ensure we all have.

Healthcare is as important to society as roads, bridges, and defense.

We collectively pay for defense of our country - nobody seems to have a problem with that.

If New York is attacked, we don't complain here in San Diego that they are getting our tax dollars.

The collective health of a society is as vital as our security is.

By all of us ensuring everyone has access, we get a healthier, more robust, more productive country that enables us to compete with the rest of the 1st word, all of whom provide healthcare to all of their citizens.

I believe Americans should start looking at healthcare as something fundamental and something we all have a stake in, like we do our defense.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | August 30, 2013 at 2:15 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago


Universal healthcare is more than a black and while issue. I am for it if we increase control over the habits of people, as they do in Europe. More restrictions on what you can eat/do (limit fast food, GMO, smoking, drinking, etc).

If we let people eat/do whatever they want, then I am completely opposed to universal healthcare.

If I don't smoke, eat healthy, and exercise regularly why should I be forced to pay for the lifestyle ailments of someone who smokes, eats fast food crap, and sits on their couch watching TV every day?

So pick one method:

Lifestyle control = societal responsibility.

Lifestyle freedom = personal responsibility.

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Avatar for user 'MarineRoom'

MarineRoom | August 30, 2013 at 4:13 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Very good, sensible points.

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Avatar for user 'CarlosDangler'

CarlosDangler | September 1, 2013 at 9:43 a.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

This is interesting discussion. I kind of agree with California Defender here. Fast Food one would hope is merely a 'gateway' job of last resort, an adolescent right of passage so they can make some weekend spending money and if wise, they discover soon that is makes complete sense to move on and find work elsewhere. This is not an existence one would not wish on anyone they truly care about. Most adults that have stories about first jobs and it often involves Fast Food, usually airly comical stories, about working 1 day or 1 week then up and quitting or getting assigned working french fry duty eight hour shift returning home smelling like a ball of grease, breaking out in acne because of the toxic combination of grease and hormones. The higher you pay them for minimum wage, you are perpetuating their suffering, and you are stagnating a potentially productive member of society to remain in Fast Food hell. I say put the money towards education, perhaps a course on class of Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs or put it towards STEM Higher education to help both them out and our society.

One more thought on the Health care aspect, many Fast Food workers are teen, less likely to need health care than older segments of society. As teens, if their parents have coverage, they may already have coverage under parental policies.

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