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Uncategorized The campaign for $15 an hour takes to the...

The campaign for $15 an hour takes to the Bay Area streets

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Actions all over show broad labor, community support for fast-food workers

At  least 2,000 people rallied in Berkeley to support fast-food workers
At least 2,000 people rallied in Berkeley to support fast-food workers

By Tim Redmond

APRIL 15, 2015 – Bernardo Montiel works for Jack in the Box. His job is in the city of Alameda, where there’s no strong minimum-wage ordinance. He makes about $9 an hour.

And some weeks, he only gets about 15 hours of work.

Think about that: Before taxes, Montiel takes home about $135 a week. Hard to live anywhere on that; impossible in the Bay Area. “It’s not even much to give my mom to help make ends meet,” Montiel said.

So he was up early this morning, and spoke to more than 100 people who crowded at 6am into a McDonalds at 24th and Mission to demand a $15-an-hour wage for fast-food workers.

Bernardo Montiel earns about nine bucks an hour at Jack in the Box
Bernardo Montiel earns about nine bucks an hour at Jack in the Box

“Hold the burgers, hold the fries, make our wages supersize,” the union and community activists chanted.

The rally started in front of the restaurant, but the protesters soon moved inside, occupying almost every bit of space. A crew of police officers guarded the counter and tried to keep an aisle open for customers, but there weren’t many people coming in to buy food.

Union activists take over the 24th and Mission McDonalds
Union activists take over the 24th and Mission McDonalds

It was part of a national day of action to organize fast-food workers – some of the lowest-paid people in the country, many of whom have no benefits and completely unpredictable shifts.

Police try to protect the counter at McDonalds, where nobody was buying anything anyway
Police try to protect the counter at McDonalds, where nobody was buying anything anyway

Oakland and San Francisco have raised the local minimum wage, and the workers at this McDonald’s will be getting $12.25 an hour shortly, with increases up to $15 over the next three years.

That’s barely a living wage in a city where the median rent is $3,500 for a one-bedroom apartment. But for many fast-food workers, a raise to $15 would make a big difference.

For Montiel, that would represent a pay hike of more than 60 percent.

Fast-food workers have been difficult to organize; the giant corporations that run McDonalds, Burger King, and Jack in the Box aren’t friendly to labor, to say the least. The workers are often in desperate need of a paycheck, and live with the threat of getting fired (or losing most of their shifts) at the whim of management.

Mary Kay Henry, international president of SEIU, urges "$15 and a union" at the Berkeley rally
Mary Kay Henry, international president of SEIU, urges “$15 and a union” at the Berkeley rally

But hundreds of workers defied those odds and showed up in San Francisco and Berkeley today to protest. And unions from all over the Bay Area showed up to show solidarity.

It was a signal that the movement to organize fast-food workers – the chant was “$15 and a union” – is getting traction.

Noesha McGehee was one of them. She works at McDonalds in Oakland, earning the legal minimum $12.25 an hour, with no benefits and no health care. And although she wants to work more, she’s only given weekend shifts.

McDonalds worker Noesha McGehee is helping fight for a $15 wage
McDonalds worker Noesha McGehee is helping fight for a $15 wage

“It’s not enough to buy schoolbooks,” the 18-year-old Cal State East Bay student told me.

“Just because people work in fast food, they still deserve rights and respect, like all workers,” she said.

Similar rallies and marches in more than 140 US cities made this a dramatic event for labor – and perhaps an important step in an effort to bring workplace rights to more than 3 million low-paid workers in the fast-food industry.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

94 COMMENTS

  1. “Investors who anticipated QE”? hahaha thanks for that laugh

    “whatever the reason, that happened” – really? that’s your reasoning?

  2. In this business, time periods and drawdowns matter. A statement about stocks that must narrow its metric and exclude a major drawdown to be correct is not imprecise – it is false.

    If there is one main stock index, it cannot exclude trillions of dollars of capitalization traded outside the US.

    Usually the word ‘junior’ is reserved for indexes like those of junior gold miners. Small cap and emerging indexes are called small cap and emerging. Over the 2008-to-present period, small caps have outperformed, emerging has underperformed.

  3. Sam claimed

    prices are independent from costs, which appears to be your thesis.

    Since only Sam has ever suggested such a thesis, asking him whence it came seems fair.

  4. The SEC doesn’t believe ‘[t]he stock market has tripled since 2008’ means ‘the S&P 500 price has tripled since March 9, 2009.’

    A couple years back, Schwab payed $120 million to settle claims involving substantially less significant misstatements.

  5. The lit review focuses on the lack of significant employment effects from a higher price for low-cost labor.

    Whence did this novel thesis come? It is unfamiliar.

  6. I saw nowhere in that piece how prices are independent from costs, which appears to be your thesis.

    Therefore your claim remains unsubstantiated, as well as illogical as it always did.

  7. I prefer workers to take a stake in their employers through stock options and ownership, rather then by having a bloody revolution where millions die and we have to build walls and fences to stop people leaving, yes.

  8. Quite so. Similarly, it is easy to see that no stock index, however constituted, tripled over the 2008-to-present period.

    Backtracking and rewriting and multiple footnotes don’t change the naked falsity of the original statement.

  9. I don’t see it anywhere in there. You were just bluffing and hoped I would not read it.

    Apparently, this statement was a simple lie. Disappointing.

    The piece is a lit review. Its references section runs slightly over four full pages of papers and books. How can the piece have cherry picked four-plus pages worth of references?

    If all markets works as described, how do Giffen goods work?

  10. The text of the progressives anti gun law had the cops arresting citizens and going into their homes to round up guns, including those of Winston Smith and Harrison Bergeron. The left would like to use the cops as more of a thought crime unit

  11. You also want more laws and enforcement to protect the cab companies? Who is going to enforce these laws if you have your way?

  12. Investors who anticipated QE and its effects did better than those who did not. That’s the name of the game.

    The market tripled. Whatever the reason, that happened, and smarter folks did very very well out of it. Dummies – not so much

  13. Yes, the piece was designed to give that result. There are other pieces that show the opposite. You cherry-picked

    It is quite obvious that a higher prices will deter demand for all but the most inelastic products and services. The entire market works off that principle

  14. Nobody really controls their own pay, except maybe elected officials.

    If you are an employee, your boss decides your worth.

    If you are self-employed, your customers decide what you are worth.

  15. Having stock options or stock ownership is how most people can influence our great enterprises. You can have power by buying a few shares than you can by one lousy vote at an election.

    Vote your proxy. It works.

  16. A person only has one vote in an election, so the influence of one person is always tiny. No different when it comes to the power of your proxy. But multiply either by millions of times and it becomes a power.

    Enterprises typically require a leader and a visionary, so obviously some workers will have more money and power than others. That happens in communist nations too. total equality cannot work because skills and effort are unequal.

    But US tech forms are closer to yuor communist ideas than most anything around

  17. The assertion that, ‘[t]he main US index has tripled since it’s early 2009 low’ is not false. How refreshing!

    As for winnings, there is a truism in the business: real traders remember losers. Traders who talk about winnings?

    Those are the guys who take the other side of your trades.

  18. There is an employment effect, but it is close to zero.

    The title of the piece is, ‘Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment?’

  19. Soupetal/Sam,
    You’re wrong on both counts and I think you know it.
    There is a ruling class. Only a microscopically tiny minority of the minority of Americans who own any stock, own enough to have true influence in the governance of the corporations.
    Tech is not the worker owner model. There is no true democracy in tech, unless you’re talking about something like the San Francisco tech collective. Compensation and all other decisions are still made by a corporate oligarchy or corporate dictatorship.

  20. Tripled since a crash time low with the assistance of a massive injection of ZIRP and NIRP is hardly the reflection of a booming economy.

    More borrowing in the face of ZIRP and NIRP is the reason the market is doing so well so why not borrow more and invest in more tangible results? If the market crashes we might still have an actual pot to piss in.

  21. “So you and I are part of the ruling class. Our share holdings carry proxies which collectively drive compensation decisions.”

    I’ve only seen this in action in the case where you own a large amount of stock or have a very activist pension fund manager and even still those compensation decisions typically apply to executives.

    The good news is though even if you don’t own stock or have a retirement account you still have a voice in the running of corporations and indeed the market via regulations and consumer protection laws.

    FWIW Tech workers rarely actually “own” stock. Very few ever exercise their options due to the prohibitive taxation levied upon it by the bloated central bureaucracy of the IRS. Those IRS Marxists!!!

    Most have stock options that they “hope” translate into some value if the company that they work for IPOs or gets acquired at some value above their strike price.

    The reality is that most stock options are worthless because most tech companies fail – 80%+ depending on who you believe.

    Techcrunch’s crunchbase is an excellent source of investment data to calculate investments that ended up nowhere. Download the excel data and sort by last rounds and total investments.

    If employees work for a recently IPOed and publicly traded company their stock options value is still entirely at risk and they can end up liable for the tax on a negatively valued stock. Negative with respect to their strike price and taxes.

    A good local example is Zynga who had to re-issue stock options and pay tax bills for employees who did exercise their stock options and collectively lost millions.

  22. “If I am the shareholder of a corporation, then it is effectively my money that is being paid to an employee, so it is reasonable that I decide what to pay.”

    That’s not the case for any publicly traded company and most private companies too.

    The labor market combined with local and state regulations will decide what the employee is paid.

    “People get paid on the basis of a perception of the value they add, and not on what they think they might like to have.”

    Again, as I stated above that is a fallacious assumption.

  23. “You get paid what you are worth – not what you think you would like to have.”

    You’re missing one word in the first part of your statement that would give it parity with the second and also prevent it from being a rhetorical fallacy.

    “You get paid what you *think* are worth – not what you *think* you would like to have.”

    Clearly plenty of people get paid what they *think* they are worth

  24. We are in the US and that is the market Americans overwhelmingly invest in

    The main US index has tripled since it’s early 2009 low.

    Sure you can cherry-pick a date in 2008 when it’s less than that. But the tripling I am talking about is plain to see even with your graph.

    I rest my case. If you want to carry on fighting your lost cause because you are to stubborn to ever concede defeat, then i am happy to watch you humiliate yourself some more.

    I’m just happy to spend my winnings

  25. Asserting ‘[t]he stock market has tripled since 2008’ was false. World stock prices are up 12%.

    True, excluding fifteen trillion market cap outside the United States, then further excluding the 2008 to March 9, 2009 drawdown, the stock market has tripled.

    The original, quod erat statement, however, wasn’t even close.

  26. What ruling class? Corporations are owned by shareholders, which are mostly institutions that are trustees for our savings, retirement funds and insurance policies.

    So you and I are part of the ruling class. Our share holdings carry proxies which collectively drive compensation decisions.

    As for the worker-owner model, the best example of that is in tech, where most workers own stock and stock options. Your Marxist wet dream has already happened through stock options and through IRA’s – you just didn’t notice because you were too busy agitating like a 1950’s French socialist

  27. Well, Greg, since you are familiar with communist nations, you will be aware how the police really can be used as agents of the government to spy on, control and suppress the people.

    But here it’s a little different because we elect the people who appoint and manage the cops. And generally we vote for those who will run a police force that will stop criminals from interfering with normal everyday life like, er, having lunch.

    And fast food workers get free food anyway, or at least they did when I worked in one as a kid. If you really can’t make your point without harassing people who just want a burger, then that is pretty sad of you.

  28. The workers want to have lunch too. Hard to do that on what they’re being paid.
    Basically, though, you’re arguing that it’s the law, not the police, that exists to defend the interests of the ruling class; the police is just the enforcement arm of the ruling class, a modern-day Praetorian Guard. Perhaps. They don’t write the laws -the ruling class does that.
    Still, the image of an elite state security apparatus armed to the teeth, paid $100,000 apiece, defending profits of billionaires against the protests oft he masses with the threat of deadly force, is indicative of a society that has lost its moral compass.

  29. In a democracy, at least the bureaucracy is accountable to “we the people.” It’s not a perfect system; in a perfect system workers would be the owners. Then we wouldn’t need a lot of the laws we have. But for now it’s the best we’ve got to reign in the abuses of the ruling class. There’s at least some kind of human review that pays attention to fairness, as opposed to having the morally blind laws of the market govern the capricious whims of dictatorial bosses.

  30. So you don’t see the index down around the 600/700 mark then?

    Get a new prescription. It has tripled from the low. QED.

  31. Personally I agree with that. But then concepts like “over” and “under” paying are subjective anyway.

  32. It’s their money. If they wish to spend it on under-paying someone, that has nothing to do with you or I.

  33. Two-crayon economics works a lot of the time. Minimum wage is a case where it does not. There is an employment effect, but it is close to zero. Some people pay more for some goods and services, but on total income increases due to a multiplier effect.

    A bigger economic pie plus better working conditions for the weakest is about as close to a free lunch as you can get. Aggressive deficit spending in the current economy is another.

  34. Who is the “we” there?

    If I am the shareholder of a corporation, then it is effectively my money that is being paid to an employee, so it is reasonable that I decide what to pay.

    You appear to believe that a panel of bureaucrats should instead decide on pay, based on some vague principle of social engineering. No thanks.

    People get paid on the basis of a perception of the value they add, and not on what they think they might like to have.

  35. It’s their money. If they wish to spend it on over-paying someone, that has nothing to do with you or I.

  36. Corporations are passthrough vehicles. If you increase their costs, then that get passed on to everyone in one or more of the following ways:

    1) Some of their employees are let go, or get given less hours, or get worse benefits, or there is less hiring

    2) The customers pay more for their products and services

    3) The shareholders (i.e. your IRA and 401K) receive less returns, meaning that you have to work and save longer to retire.

    Repeat after me – there’s no such thing as a free lunch

  37. Ah, so you now admit the S&P 500 is up by 200% (as I said) and not 65% (which you said).

    666 to 2100 is up by a factor of over 3.

  38. Pay is related to added value, and not to what anyone needs. If one person makes 1,000 times more money than another, as in your example, then that is fine as long as they are considered to add 1,000 times more value.

    That is a decision for the company’s shareholders, and not for you. It’s not your money.

  39. The purpose of the police is to allow law-abiding people to go about their normal business without interference from those engaged in criminal behavior.

    That might include enabling people who want to have lunch to do so, in the face of a law-breaking mob who want to stop them.

    It might equally involve shooting a bad guy who is a threat to others.

    And what is “theoretical” about someone wanting to eat?

  40. It’s funny how good stock returns can look when you erase all the drawdowns. 2008 happened, stocks in March 2009 were almost 60% off their highs, and that’s part of the 2008-to-present history.

    Being off by a factor of between 3 and 6 seems apropos.

  41. In what universe are wages set by desert? Employers pay the lowest wage the market will bear. Setting a minimum wage is exactly like setting a safety standard: it requires employers to spend more improving working conditions.

    Minimum wages do not, on the whole, cost most people anything: in a modern economy, employers compensate by lowering turnover, lowering margins and improving efficiency.

  42. when someone is making $70 a day and someone else is making $70K a day it isn’t really fair. Life isn’t fair. But with logic that as a society we can determine that someone ABSOLUTELY NEEDS to be paid a certain amount to survive, we can also decide what someone doesn’t ABSOLUTELY NEED. You can’t have it both ways without being a hypocrite.

  43. Don’t the cops have anything better to do than keep an aisle clear for customers buying burgers? (theoretical customers at that)

    Is this the best use of time for a government employee making $100,000+ per year?

    I suppose it’s better than having them go around shooting people, but doesn’t this kind of reinforce the critique that the purpose of the state security apparatus is nothing more than to protect the profits of wealthy corporations?

  44. Who determines “worth?” The mythical invisible hand? As in “you want a raise? Tell it to the hand.”

    No, I think we can do better than that.

  45. Why does a gap in wealth need to be “balanced”? Just because Zuckerberg and Ellison have far more money than you does not mean that you are harmed by that in any way. Heck, they might even hire you, so you are better off as well.

    The reason so many people want to move here is because it is possible to be very successful here. If they wanted a dull egalitarian society, they could stay in their home country. Or if you want one, you could move there.

  46. No, a regulation in your sense of the word restricts what an employer can do. They do not prescribe pay levels.

    The point of a minimum wage law is to increase the pay of a worker FROM what he is actually worth to an employer TO what the government thinks he should be paid. That is welfare in much the same way as Section 8 or food stamps, which do a similar thing.

    The minimum wage, like rent control, is the government trying to impose welfare while externalizing the costs and ducking the need to ask the voters for the money. Of course, the voters end up paying for it anyway, in a different way. But the government hopes the people are too stupid to realize that. Evidently some of them are.

  47. A minimum wage is not welfare; that word describes government programs for the poor and unemployed. A minimum wage is a labor regulation, like safety codes or child labor laws.

  48. well you have people collecting over 3 million dollars a year. Who needs that???? Nobody. It would help balance the wealth gap. Plus logically if there is a minimum there should also be a maximum.

  49. Nope, the early 2009 intra-day low on the S and P was 666. It’s around 2100 now, so more than tripled in fact

  50. The S&P 500 is up 65%, not 200%.

    It is helpful, before making an assertion, to check the numbers to make sure that assertion is not off by a factor of 3.

  51. Again, you cannot build a vibrant economy by assuming that the cost of welfare can be borne only by enterprises

  52. ..and tomorrow the stock exchange will be the human race

    The MSCI World from 2008 to 2015q1 is up 33%, not 200%.

  53. The stock market has tripled since 2008. Are you saying that the markets are wrong and your feelings are right?

  54. Anything that increases costs without a corresponding increase in profitability harms the business, and therefore harms the economy.

    A company that fires people because of an artificial increase in costs will most likely not hire another worker they can no longer afford. They will simply operate at a lower capacity, or outsource.

    There is no free lunch, and there never was.

  55. It is impossible to argue with feelings. The data, however, are clear: the United States, like the rest of the world, has been suffering from suboptimal performance since 2008.

  56. The profit maximizing approach is to get the best from current employees. An employer that fires for underperformance is betting on weak training skills combined with strong hiring skills. That combination is unlikely, making this a bad bet.

    The literature on business response to minimum increases is pretty clear: it has a cleansing effect in a developing economy, is compensated for by reduced turnover, lower margins and better efficiency in a developed economy – all good outcomes.

  57. The simple fact remains that if someone has low skills and cannot generate enough profit to justify a minimum wage, then they will probably cease to be employed.

    The real key to higher pay is higher productivity. If we legislate the former while deterring the latter, then the result cannot be sustainable

  58. There are many ways to represent the economy. You have cherry-picked one that appears to support your view that we are in a recession. This doesn’t feel like a recession – for instance, unemployment in SF is half what it was when Ed Lee took office.

  59. Sure; business maximizes profit. Hence regulation: society believes certain things are not acceptable, like child labor.

    A guaranteed income is one step forward, a half step back. The step forward is better to insulate people from bad luck. The half step back is to remove the helpful pressure to make work valuable enough that it is worth paying the minimum.

  60. I shared a room with two others back when I was young and poor.

    I didn’t expect that to be considered my employer’s problem

  61. The economy isn’t depressed. It is booming. I thought it was the boom that the left thinks is a “problem” that it is trying to “solve”

  62. “Unfair” is a subjective notion and therefore not a good way to set wages. I might think it is “unfair” to pay someone more than the extra profit they generate, for instance.

    If the government thinks that some people should be paid more than their work is worth, then they should give theme xtra from the general fund, and not stick that liabilit on an employer. Your example of the tax credits for having kids shows the way there

  63. In the current, depressed economy, with rates on public debt at historic lows, that is exactly right. The government should borrow more and spend it, ideally on infrastructure and transit.,

  64. Right, that’s how markets set wages. Sometimes those are unfair. That is a collective action problem. Government is the way to solve collective action problems. Setting and enforcing a minimum wage, so long as it is not too high, makes for more equitable outcomes without damaging economic activity.

    To solve another collective action problem, the government does pay people after they have children. It pays directly through the tax code and various public benefit programs, and indirectly by paying for things like parks and public schools.

  65. Sorry, that wasn’t intended to propose anything. Apologies for not understanding a ‘shared room’ is not shared but private.

  66. So the new standard should be two to a room, and any privacy is now a luxury? Why not 4 to a room, in two bunkbeds?
    Housing cost is the main worry and largest piece of expense of minimum wage earners. For them it is already long past ‘unduly distorting economic activity’.
    Mind you, all these $1000 rooms I saw on Craigslist must be in long-occupied RC apartments. As these turn over, the price will move up toward $2000/room, and then keep going up.

  67. Wages do not get set by what people think they need. If that were the case then we would pay people more if they had children.

    Wages are set by the amount of extra profit you bring to your employer. If your work adds $10 an hour to your employer’s bottom line, then how much do you think you should be paid?

  68. If minimum wage should be based on minimum rent, and if a shared room is $1000, minimum rent is $500 and minimum wage should be $10.

    Housing cost seems like the wrong way to set minimum wage, something like the tail wagging the dog. Minimum wage instead should be set as high as possible without unduly distorting economic activity. $15 seems a nice, aggressive floor, considering how many people work for less.

  69. A shared room in SF typically goes for $1000/month. If lodgings are supposed to take 30% of one’s salary before taxes, that comes to a minimum wage of about $20/hr. $15 is too low.

  70. Absolutely right: a fairer minimum and organization would go a long way to making private work pay more fairly. The other thing to support, of course, is significant government spending to spur a high pressure economy.

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