On April 15 massive marches took place all across the country demanding a $15 minimum wage and a union. Students, activists, and other union members participated but at the heart of this historic day of action were low wage workers.
Fast food workers who already are financially desperate risked their livelihoods and went on strike. Against the wishes of their employers they did not show up to their shifts and instead participated in the one day unfair labor practice strike.
Kalia Vang and Noemi Sevilla, two heroic Sacramento workers, stood out for their courage and dedication to the movement. The young women of color who work for McDonald’s had enough of the oppressive working conditions and walked out onto strike in the middle of their shifts.
Day after day Kalia clocked in at at the Pocket Road McDonald’s in South Sacramento to work a long shift cooking and serving food to hundreds of people for only 9 dollars an hour. After that shift, tired and hungry, she then would go to her second job, a common pattern that low wage workers must endure to make ends meet.
But on April 15, as a picket line formed in front of her restaurant, Kalia became so fed up that she walked out to join the strike.
She recalled that when the picket line formed, her managers ordered all the workers into the back room. She told them that she wasn’t going and that she was instead going to join the protests.
The managers became angry and threatened her. But staying strong to her convictions Kalia fought through the fear and declared that she believed in the movement. She took off her McDonalds shirt to reveal a red union shirt underneath and walked outside to the excited crowd.
At her side was her equally courageous coworker, Noemi, a young woman from south Sacramento. Noemi worked hard to provide for herself and help her family, and she was inspired by the actions of other workers she knew who had gone on strike before.
Along with Kalia, in the face of threats from her managers who wield intense control, and with a degree of fear from what her father would say, Noemi clocked out and joined the movement.
Both Kalia and Noemi went on to march and make speeches encouraging other workers with their story.
Later that night Noemi showed media coverage of her walking out to her father. He watched intently, turned to her, and said “Congratulations, I am very proud of you for standing up for what you believe in and showing them that you are not afraid”.
The view of her father demonstrates the fact that support for the workers’ movement is growing. Her father comes from a previous generation of workers who had to fight for their own rights and now his daughter is continuing the struggle.
At the heart and forefront of social justice movements you will find heroic workers who risk everything for a chance at victory. Women workers and workers of color especially take this role. We must recognize the true leadership of this movement, follow and celebrate these heroic workers who generation after generation protect and fight for our rights. Kalia and Noemi are some of these workers who inspire resistance and win.