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Barbara Lee helps lead protest at McDonald’s

Rep. Barbara Lee led several dozen community members and activists Tuesday on a march through a McDonald’s in East Oakland to protest the company’s alleged wage theft.

Three class-action lawsuits filed last week accuse the Illinois-based fast-food giant and three of its California franchisees of stealing employees’ money by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their time cards and not paying them overtime, among other things. Similar cases have been filed in New York and Michigan.

Barbara Lee & Jennifer Lin 3-18-14 (photo by Josh Richman)“This illegal wage theft must stop … Enough is enough,” said Lee, D-Oakland, speaking into a megaphone inside the McDonald’s at East 12th Street and 25th Avenue.

She had just led a chanting, sign-carrying crowd down 25th Avenue and into the restaurant, where employees and puzzled patrons looked on as she praised the activists.

“It takes a lot of courage to do this… You inspire me,” she said. “You deserve to live the American dream. You deserve fair wages.”

As soon as Lee finished speaking, Oakland Police officers demanded that the protesters step outside; the rally continued in the parking lot. “Fill my wages, not my fries – make our wages super-size,” they chanted, along with the labor slogan, “Si se puede.” Several carried signs that said “I’m Hatin’ It,” a play on a famed McDonald’s catchphrase.

“We’re all fed up, we’re tired of this,” said Ilda Amador, 25, of Oakland, who said she has faced similar problems while working at Jack in the Box. Rhonesha Victor, 24, of Oakland, said the same of her job at KFC, noting fast-food workers make meager wages to start with and can’t afford to let their employers take advantage of them. “These companies, they have to pay.”

Matthew Murray, a San Francisco attorney representing workers in one of the California cases, called Lee’s participation “a reflection that these are important issues, that workers are stepping up to assert their rights is a big deal, and that multinational corporations like McDonald’s have to follow the law, too.”

Barbara Lee 3-18-14 (photo by Josh Richman)Murray said attorneys’ ongoing investigation “suggests that this is a long-standing problem and a widespread problem,” and the company “exerts extensive control over its franchises, including over its franchises’ labor practices.”

McDonalds employs about 1.8 million people in more than 34,000 restaurants worldwide, including more than 14,000 in the United States. More than 80 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are franchised.

“McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants,” spokeswoman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem said in a statement issued in response to the lawsuits. “We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits. McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators are each committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations. McDonald’s restaurants remain open today—and every day—thanks to the teams of dedicated employees serving our customers.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Truly the greatest living Oaktownie! Wait til she takes a crack at marijuana dealers!

  • Elwood

    One, two, three,

    Look at Bobbie Lee!

    Three, four, five,

    Look at Bobbie Jive!

    Bobbie Lee!

    (She don’t speak for me)

  • Why do they have to pay? For being dumb enough to locate their business in Crapholifornia, where lawyer trash literally chase business now, like they used to (and probably still do) chase ambulances?

  • CarolinaGirl3

    Babs is in a safe district – nice for her to grandstand using someone else’s jobs to make her point.

    And a bullhorn in a confined space? REALLY?

  • Steve Gregg

    Typical loony lefty thinking: If you don’t give me your money, you’re stealing it from me, cuz all your moneys is mine!

  • RRSenileColumnist

    She coulda bought some burgers fer da transients hangin around. Dats da Lee-est she coulda done.

  • atlspfox

    Oakland really? who would have thought