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Low-wage workers speak out

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Photo: Gloria La Riva

At today’s 6 a.m. strike in San Francisco against McDonald’s and fast-food restaurants, where the Fight for 15 resounded in the working-class Mission District, I spoke with two men who exemplify the hardworking people barely scraping by to provide for their families and themselves.

Carlton Ingman has worked at McDonald’s in Richmond, 15 miles northeast of San Francisco.

He said: “I’ve been working at McDonald’s about six years. I thought it would be okay because I got a raise when I first got there, but I haven’t gotten a raise in four and a half years. I do more work, but the pay is the same. I do like nine jobs it seems.”

Making only $10.25 an hour, even that is cut down by reduced hours, making it even harder for Ingman: “Sometimes they give us only four days out of the week. One time it was only 16 hours in a week.

“I know they make plenty of money because I work there, and I see business coming through. I work only five hours a day, I’m doing good if I get six hours. That’s not enough. I’ve got two daughters.

“For a whole month, my check is maybe $900. If I didn’t have a girlfriend, I couldn’t pay my rent, it’s $975!”

Carlton Ingman and Felix Tizoc | Photo: Gloria La Riva

Felix Tizoc, who came across the Bay to San Francisco together with Ingman, works at KFC in San Leandro, 20 miles across the Bay from San Francisco. He said: “I get nine bucks an hour. I used to work a whole week but now it’s only four days.”

I asked, “Felix, how is your living situation?”

He answered, almost incredulous. “Oh man, it’s bad! Sometimes I have to do odd jobs to just make it through.

“How do I know they can pay better? KFC’s everywhere, the colonel’s everywhere.”

Just to get their jobs, it took long persistence just to be able to work and earn an income.

Ingman said: “I used to go there every Wednesday morning, and check on the store, I’d tell them to give me an opportunity to work for them. Every Wednesday, about two to three months until I got the job.”

Tizoc’s story was the same. “I used to do a similar thing, I’d show up at the restaurant, and say hey man, I’m here ready to work. ‘I want to work, I need a job, sir.’ They finally put me on.”

I asked, “Do you think we will win?”

Ingman is sure of the future. “I think it’s going to get better, more people are behind it, very serious about it. Every meeting we have, people join us.

“Yes, we will, I know we are going to win there’s no other way around it now. We gotta keep it rolling!”

With starvation wages that you have to hand over entirely to the landlord, no holiday pay, no vacation, and no steady hours, this crime of capitalism is being solidly confronted by the very workers involved. It is a movement that can’t and won’t be stopped.

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