On May 16, McDonald’s workers at a gas station in Inglewood neighborhood of Los Angeles walked out to protest years of injustice and abuse. Fight for 15 LA organized the rally which brought out 40 community members who supported their fellow workers through this brave act of defiance against exploitation. Inglewood is a historically Black neighborhood with a long history of struggle for justice.
Estela Lopez, who has worked at McDonald’s for thirty years, has suffered extensive abuse and exploitation, stating, “They have worked me as hard as two people.” Another worker, German Gomez, explained that management has mocked and bullied him because of his health conditions. Fight for 15 LA is working with Lopez and Gomez to file complaints against wage theft and discrimination. While wage theft is a crime, 85% of fast food workers in California have experienced some form of wage theft, and California has the largest population of fast food workers in the country. Fight for 15 organizes fast food workers across the country, who are some of the poorest workers despite fast food corporations making record profits.
Workers and their supporters gathered outside the McDonald’s, stalling the drive-through with chants and pickets. After speeches from the workers, the crowd marched into the store chanting, “McDonald’s escucha, estamos en la lucha.” The management hid while customers and workers inside nodded with approval.
Another key point to the rally was connecting labor exploitation with housing issues. In her speech, Lopez expressed her solidarity with the homeless community of Los Angeles, and Kenia Torres-Alcocer of Union de Vecinos followed up: “We know that the harassment that we receive back home from landlords is the same type of harassment we receive at our jobs.” She demanded, “everyone should make enough money to live and only pay 30% of income to housing.” The crowd welcomed this message that highlights the connections between the struggles that the working class faces.
Standing up to years of exploitation and disrespect, both Lopez and Gomez encouraged their coworkers to fight back. Community members of all ages wore red Fight for 15 LA shirts to send a clear message of solidarity, and those who passed by on the road cheered in support. A lively picket held up the drive-through line, but customers waiting in their cars showed solidarity with the workers who walked out saying things like, “I am so proud of you. You are doing the right thing!”
A dump truck driver who got held up by the traffic while working expressed support, telling the workers picketing, “Go get ’em!” Afterwards, Gomez shared: “This event signifies a lot for me because I feel everyone’s support, and I feel stronger knowing that I am not alone in this fight.” Lopez encouraged her community, “Today it was me, tomorrow who follows?!”