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In my over 30 years in organized labor I have seen a lot. But few moments compare to my experiences working with fast food workers fighting for a raise and a Union. Fast food workers across the country, and here in LA, inspire me with their fight to be able to provide a better life for their families. And we all need to support them.

Fast Food Workers Demanding Justice

But there is another interesting and exciting thing about the fast food workers, they are almost all people of color! As a Latina labor leader, I am proud of how people of color are coming together at fast food stores to demand justice. Their stories are both inspiring and heart breaking.

They are wonderful people who deserve so much. They are part time college students from broken families who walk miles to work because they can’t afford a bus pass. They are parents who can’t keep up with their kids clothing needs. They are older workers who have given up on finding a well paying job like the one they lost in the recession. They are the ones that have walked off work, risking retaliation; they are the ones struggling to make ends meet. This fight is key to why Latinos come to the US – for a brighter future.

Simply put, fast food workers deserve a raise, a big one! Their employers can easily afford it. Take McDonald’s for example, in just the last quarter of 2014 their revenue was $6.57 billion, and they called that a bad quarter.

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Even as politicians have relegated issues facing the working poor to political slogans, the workers have hope.

Even as politicians have relegated issues facing the working poor to political slogans, the workers have hope. Fast food workers are the face of the fight to raise the minimum wage. The earning gap between the average fast food worker and the top executives in their companies is yet another sign of the sad but growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of us. It is another reminder that the quality of our children's lives will be worse than when I was growing up. This is because half of the country is earning less than $15.00 an hour.

Raising the minimum wage will reduce poverty, create jobs, and provide more spending power to residents and workers in the city, which in the long run will benefit business. In fact, a recent study by the Economic Roundtable concluded that a $15.25 minimum wage in Los Angeles would bring $5.9 billion dollars to workers and raise the overall earnings of many working class communities by as much as 6%. This new spending will do wonders for current and new business in working class communities. The study called the potential impact of a $15.25 minimum wage “potentially transformative.”

But some at City Hall prefer a diluted proposal. Their watered-down version of the minimum wage will not take low-wage workers out of poverty, it will not protect workers from wage theft, and it will not give families led by low-wage workers the boost they need. We don’t need a raise that is about doing better. We need a raise that is about doing well! A raise that means not needing public assistance and perhaps quitting their second job to can spend more time with their family. A raise that means you can work part time and continue your education.

We must pass the $15 minimum wage with enforcement provisions and accumulated sick days. This is good for kids, good for taxpayers, good for our spending power, and good for Los Angeles. But to make this a reality we need real political leadership from the City of Los Angeles.


Gilda Valez
SEIU Local 721