Fighting for fast food workers in Silicon Valley

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Around 50 representatives of labor and community groups rallied Dec. 5 in support of workers at a McDonald’s here as part of the national day of action for fast food workers.

San Jose voters recently raised the minimum wage in the city to $10 per hour-still too low to live in a city with the highest rental housing costs in the country, where a six-figure income is needed to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Signs at the demonstration pointed out that SeaTac, a city in Washington where the Seattle-Tacoma airport is located, recently passed a minimum wage of $15.

The demonstration had a decidedly anti-corporate tone. “We subsidize these workers with our taxes,” said an organizer from Raging Grannies, one of the groups supporting the action. “McDonald’s actually tells its workers to get food stamps. Do we want to subsidize McDonald’s shareholders?” She reported that McDonald’s urged its employees to sell their Christmas gifts on eBay to help get by.

Speakers blasted corporations saying “profits are the highest they’ve ever been,” and since workers create profits, “they should share them with the workers!”

“It’s not corporate executives re-warming that stuff in there that they call food,” Karim of Industrial Workers of the World said.

Other groups represented at the demonstration included United Food and Commercial Workers, Service Employees International Union and National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981.

Mateo, a UFCW worker at Safeway, told the group in Spanish and English how difficult it is to raise a family even on a Safeway salary. Benjamin Maza, another demonstrator, echoed that theme, chiding politicians’ complacency: “JFK said that a rising tide lifts all boats; but lots of boats have already sunk!”

Demonstrators pledged to continue the struggle and support the efforts of SEIU and other unions to organize fast-food workers.

Photo: Henry Millstein/PW


Henry Millstein
Henry Millstein

Hank Millstein is a long-time peace and labor activist. He's a fiction writer and journalist and a member of the National Writers Union.