Fast food workers strike in the Bay Area and worldwide

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Bay Area fast food workers who walked out and picketed their stores last year are set for a repeat performance in their battle against the house that Big Mac built, timed to debut right as the Guardian hits the streets. And this strike is also set to expand.

On May 15, fast food workers worldwide plan to rise up in protest of unfair labor practices and punitive actions by their bosses. Fast food workers in the Bay Area will be joining the strike. Labor sources tell us their numbers may double thanks to new workers joining the movement in Pleasanton, Livermore, and Oakland.

The new Oakland march is twofold: One will picket a McDonald's on East 12th Street, and another a McDonald's on 14th and Jackson.

"I haven't had a raise in three years," a McDonald's worker who identified herself as Markeisha told us just after she went out on strike from an Oakland McDonald's in December. And contrary to the common narrative of fast food workers being independent teenagers, Markeisha said she has two children, and she is their sole provider.

Another common misconception is that workers are merely fighting for higher wages. Although raises are among their needs, fast food workers also contend they are a vulnerable workforce. Wage theft, low salaries, slashed hours, and punitive measures for speaking out are among the grievances fast food workers allege against their bosses at chains including McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell.

"One thing we found when talking to fast food workers was wage theft issues were high," Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Political Director Chris Daly told the Guardian. "When you're making $8-11 an hour, a couple shifts can be the difference between paying the rent or not."

Workers we talked to at the last strike alleged their jobs at McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken paid so low they had to also enroll in CalFresh (food stamps) to afford food. That sort of government subsidy for big business puts a strain on the taxpayer, former Labor Secretary and current UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich noted on his blog.

McDonalds alleges last year's actions were strikes-in-name-only. "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," McDonald's wrote in a press statement.

Counter to the corporate narrative, the Bay Guardian witnessed multiple Oakland McDonalds workers joining picket lines (captured on video: "Oakland joins 100 cities in national strike," Dec. 5,www.sfbg.com).

The next Fast Food Strike will have a world focus. Earlier this month, Salon.com reported the strike will reach cities including Karachi, Casablanca, London, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Geneva and San Salvador.

"The fast food organizing across the country speaks to how this issue is capturing not just the public imagination," Daly told us, "but speaking to low-wage workers realities to struggling simply to live." 

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