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Economy

San Diego Fast-Food Workers Rally For $15 An Hour

Emmanuel Wimers, a City Heights McDonald's worker, at a rally to push for higher wages for fast food workers, Dec. 4, 2014.
Megan Burks
Emmanuel Wimers, a City Heights McDonald's worker, at a rally to push for higher wages for fast food workers, Dec. 4, 2014.

San Diego Fast-Food Workers Rally For $15 An Hour
About 150 fast-food workers and supporters rallied in downtown San Diego on Thursday, joining workers in nearly 200 cities nationwide.

About 150 fast-food workers and supporters rallied in downtown San Diego on Thursday, joining workers in nearly 200 cities nationwide.

Employees of McDonald's, Wendy's, Panera and other chains chanted and waved signs calling for wages of $15 an hour and the opportunity to organize under the Service Employees International Union.

City College student Emmanuel Wimers, who works at a McDonald's in City Heights, said his $9 hourly wage isn't enough to qualify him for most rental agreements. Many landlords require lessees to make twice or three times the cost of rent.

Wimers lives in a motel and said many of his colleagues are similarly stretched.

“These stories are really endless,” he said. “There's just so many families and they're being squeezed and they're being bled by the corporations.”

The campaign to organize fast food workers began about two years ago when workers in New York City first walked off the job. But Rev. Beth Johnson of the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice said the national movement dovetails with the local fight for a minimum wage increase.

“They're told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but there are no straps on those boots,” Johnson said. “This is really about giving people the opportunity to understand the solidarity across low-wage workers.”

San Diego voters will take up increasing the minimum wage in 2016. Protesters Thursday marched to San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sander's office. He led the effort to block the increase until voters weigh in.

McDonalds released a statement saying it would support a minimum wage hike if it's rolled out over time and accounts for new costs to employers, who must insure more workers under the Affordable Care Act. It also states franchise owners set the wages for most of its workers.

“At McDonald’s we respect everyone’s right to peacefully protest. The topic of minimum wage goes well beyond McDonald’s- it affects our country’s entire workforce. McDonald’s and our independent franchisees support paying our valued employees fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace. We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small and medium-sized businesses – like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants – is manageable. Additionally, we believe that any increase needs to be considered in a broad context, one that considers, for example, the impact of the Affordable Care Act and its definition of “full time” employment, as well as the treatment, from a tax perspective, of investments made by businesses owners.

It’s important to know approximately 90% of our U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who set wages according to job level and local and federal laws. McDonald’s does not determine wages set by our more than 3,000 U.S. franchisees.”
A spokesman for Wendy's said the company works with employees to develop their skills to they can advance to higher paying jobs.

"We're proud to give thousands of people, who come to us for an entry-level job, the opportunity to learn and develop important skills so that they can grow with us or move on to other opportunities," Bob Bertini said in an email.

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