Fast food workers around the nation continue to call for increased wages. In Los Angeles, workers are calling for a $15 minimum wage, and one single mother of two is emerging as a representative of that movement.
Her name is Maribel Ponce and she is the subject of a recent video, produced by BuzzFeed, highlighting a Dec. 4 protest for higher wages.
The Daily Mail reports Ponce, a McDonald’s employee, went on strike with her fellow employees earlier this month and took the protest right into her McDonald's eatery.
In the early moments of the video, she is shown smiling and standing on the street speaking about the protest.
“It's really exciting to go into my own store,” Ponce says.
She goes on in the video to recount her story.
Brought to this country when she was 7 months old, Ponce says she grew up in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles. She now has two kids — a 1-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter — and says she can’t live on the $9.35 an hour McDonald’s pays her.
The short video shows her giving a tour of her small, tidy home, where she lives with her children and a handful of relatives.
“I need $15 to buy my babies diapers, their wipies, their clothes,” she tells the camera. “It’s hard with $9 per hour — you can’t do that. It’s really hard to pay rent.
“If I pay my rent, I leave my kids without their diapers,” she adds.
Others agree that the low wages make life difficult.
The Los Angeles Daily News reported Service Employees International Union organized protests in 160 other U.S. cities to coincide with the Los Angeles protest.
“They treat us like slaves when slavery was supposedly abolished a long time ago,” said McDonald’s employee Edgar Gonzalez, who took part in the demonstration in Los Angeles. “We have to choose between paying rent and buying food.”
Supporters of the popular fast food chain say the protests are tainted by the union involvement and that the organizers don’t really have the workers’ best interests at heart.
“These protests are just another clear example of unions attempting to generate headlines and grow union membership, which has been declining in the private-sector for decades,” said Steve Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association, in a statement.
The association represents many franchised fast food restaurants.
“What the unions don’t seem to understand, or want to accept, is that the brand company has absolutely nothing to do with setting wages, and these protests are really harming the very same workers the labor unions are claiming to help,” Caldeira said.
Ponce, however, doesn’t look like she plans on giving up. Smiling, the single mother says she is going to fight for a better life.
“We're going to go show them that we're not scared, that we're here to fight for what we deserve,” she states.