One of the topics gaining momentum in food circles isn’t just the sustainability of a food item itself, but the workers who harvest, prepare and serve it.
We’ve seen it in the ongoing fight to get a penny-per-pound increase for Florida tomato pickers; in efforts to protect California farm workers from pesticides and the latest national movement: to raise the wages of fast food workers. (The recent buzz over what many says was a ridiculous and unrealistic budget put together by McDonald’s and Visa pushed the conversation even further into the spotlight.)
The wage fight will reach San Diego on Thursday with a downtown strike in front of Wendy’s at First and Broadway near Horton Plaza.
San Diego is just one of more than 30 cities across the country expected to host similar one-day strikes tomorrow. Organizers are urging fast food restaurants to more than double the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour – what they say is a true living wage.
“These are courageous workers who will be walking off their job tomorrow,” said Rabbi Laurie Coskey, executive director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. “San Diego tourism is our most vibrant and important industry, but it’s the highest for those who earn poverty wages.”
Those wages, she said, hover around $8 an hour with little opportunity for advancement.
There are 115,000 San Diegans employed in food services and drinking places in San Diego County as of July 2013, said Peter Brownell, research director at the Center on Policy Initiatives, citing Current Employment Statistics from the California Employment Development Department. That number, however, does not break out fast food outlets.
“This is our first showing in the San Diego area,” said Jenaba Kamara, an organizer with San Diego Organizing Committee. “It’s a small group of workers – around 20 or so. They work at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Chipotle and Subway, mostly in the downtown area.”
Coskey said striking workers will be escorted back to their jobs on Friday by clergy and political leaders.
A call into a Wendy’s spokesperson about the event was not returned.
Kamara said organizers don’t expect to win the $15-an-hour wage right off the bat.
“We’re just trying to raise awareness on these issues, and how hard it is to survive for these workers,” she said.