Oakland joins 100 cities in national fast food strike

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Strikers stream out of an Oakland McDonalds.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

It was a bad day for Big Macs, but a good day for workers. 

Joining a nationwide day of action, a wave of over a hundred protesters crowded into a Oakland McDonald's, on Jackson street, demanding fast food workers to join in the strike.

Four employees joined in the strike, and others briefly joined the march outside.

100 cities across the country held similar strikes, with workers in Detroit, New York City and more demanding a livable wage of $15 an hour. 

The protest was nationally led by labor unions, including the SEIU, but locally it was led by men like Jose Martinez. Martinez led the strike at KFC some time back, and was one of the organizers at the forefront of today's action at McDonald's and other fast food outlets. 

"It's a movement for all fast food workers to come together and fight for our rights," he said.

Standing with Martinez in Oakland, rapper, performer and music producer Boots Riley said he was in support of the fast food workers' movement.

"Fighting to raise wages of anyone helps everyone, a high tide raises all boats," he told the Guardian. "You help make that profit, your labor is worth more than minimum wage."

Inside, the fast food joint was bursting at the seams, the workers hungry for justice.

"Markeisha! Markeisha! Markeisha!" they screamed, bursting into cheers as the five-foot tall girl hobbled around the counter to join the strike. Markeisha, who did not want her last name used, said she tore her ACL a week ago tripping over one of her children’s toys. She can't afford not to be at work though, and worked the register from a chair.

We asked if she was afraid to be on strike.

"Afraid? Kind of," she said. If she lost her job, "I wouldn't have a way to pay my bills and support her family."

She has two children, a five year old and an 11 month old. But to her this is important, because she isn't earning a living wage.

"I haven't had a raise in three years," she said. That's the entire time she's worked there. Only now that she's training to be a shift manager is she going to make $8.50 an hour. That's a raise of fifty cents.

“McDonald’s and our owner-operators are committed to providing our employees with opportunities to succeed,” McDonald’s stated on its website. “We offer employees advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits.”

One worker we talked to said they had to visit food banks to eat, even though they were fully employed. McDonalds also wanted to correct the media.

“To right-size the headlines, however, the events taking place are not strikes. Outside groups are traveling to McDonald’s and other outlets to stage rallies,” they wrote.

But contrary to their statements, eventually four workers did join the protesters in their strike, and together they poured out of the McDonalds into the adjoining parking lot. They danced and screamed, all advocating for their right to a livable wage.

Nationally the SEIU has taken the lead in organizing the workers, but locally the protest was organized as a coalition between a number of groups, including the ReFund & ReBuild Oakland Community-Labor Coalition, ACCE, EBASE, the East Bay Organizing Committee, UNITE-HERE Local 2850, OUR WALMART, SEIU 1021, and SEIU ULTCW.