Marchers participate in the fast food strike in City Heights. Photo credit: SDuerksen via Twitter.
Marchers participate in the fast food strike in City Heights. Photo credit: SDuerksen via Twitter.

Update 5:30 p.m. Thursday Sept. 4, 2014.

Fast-food workers in San Diego and around the country are scheduled to go on a one-day strike Thursday to press their demands for pay of $15 an hour and the right to unionize.

The workers and their supporters in San Diego held a news conference near a McDonald’s in City Heights early Thursday morning, then march to nearby Burger King and Jack in the Box restaurants.

At one point during the local protests, strikers were sitting in the roadway on University Avenue over Interstate 15, NBC7 reported.

Seven women and four men were arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly, according to San Diego police.

The Center on Policy Initiatives, which helped coordinate the job action, said they all were released within a few hours. Nine were fast food workers and two were supporters, according to the CPI.

Organizers said similar job actions are scheduled to take place in anywhere from 100 to 150 cities nationwide, though it’s unclear how many workers will participate.

Fast-food employees, with backing from the Service Employees International Union, have been making their case for higher wages for about two years.

They say the eateries aren’t run by teenagers as in the past but by adults with children and financial responsibilities. According to, fast-food employees’ earn hourly wages ranging from $7.16 to $8.95, depending on location.

The efforts by the workers and SEIU have been boosted by heightened awareness of what they call “income inequality” and the passage of higher minimum wage standards in the state of California and several cities, including San Diego. The $15-an-hour figure was adopted as the minimum wage in Seattle, but with some exceptions and long phase-in periods.

The movement by fast-food workers was noted by President Barack Obama in his Labor Day speech.

McDonald’s issued a statement saying the company respects the right to peacefully protest and that the topic of minimum wage “goes well beyond McDonald’s — it affects our country’s entire workforce.”

“McDonald’s and our independent franchisees support paying our valued employees fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace,” the company statement said. “We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small and medium-sized businesses — like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants — is manageable.”

McDonald’s does not determine wages set by its more than 3,000 franchisees, according to the statement.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.