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California fast-food workers launch new union: ‘They have to listen to us’

In a landmark event, hundreds of fast-food workers gathered in Los Angeles to inaugurate the California Fast Food Workers Union. This statewide union aims to unite cooks and cashiers from fast-food establishments across California, following a recent triumph that raised the minimum wage for the state’s fast-food workforce to $20 per hour.

The formation of this union follows a hard-fought legislative victory spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union’s Fight for $15 and a Union movement. Their efforts led to the passing of a bill in California, which not only increased minimum wages for fast-food workers but also established a sector council with worker representation. However, industry opposition prompted a ballot initiative aimed at overturning the law, ultimately settled to raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour.

For the advocates of the Fight for $15 movement, the creation of the California Fast Food Workers Union signifies a significant milestone after years of advocacy and numerous strikes aimed at enhancing wages and working conditions in the fast-food industry.

Joseph Bryant, an executive vice-president of the Service Employees International Union, emphasized the crucial role played by primarily Black and Latino workers in driving these initiatives and challenging corporate giants such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Burger King.

In California, where over 80% of fast-food workers are people of color and two-thirds are women, workers have faced numerous challenges, including poor workplace conditions, sexual harassment, and wage theft. Angelica Hernandez, a McDonald’s employee for 19 years, stressed the importance of union representation in addressing these issues and ensuring workplace dignity.

Similarly, July Monroe, a McDonald’s employee for over a decade, underscored the need for fair treatment and improved working conditions. Monroe highlighted the increasing awareness among workers about their rights and self-worth, countering industry resistance to fair wages and legislative measures.

In summary, the launch of the California Fast Food Workers Union marks a significant stride in the ongoing struggle for fair wages and improved conditions for fast-food workers. It empowers workers to advocate for their rights and demand better treatment in the workplace.

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