Minimum wage activists fast for better pay

Placards at the fasters' tent
Placards at the fasters’ tent

After a two-week hunger strike, minimum wage activists were rewarded with a meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday morning. The strike is part of an ongoing campaign to push for a $15 minimum wage in Los Angeles.

During the day most of those taking part in the fast spend the time under a white tent just across the street from City Hall. On Tuesday, 19-year-old Anggie Godoy was having her blood pressure taken by nurse Pilar Chacon. The fast has been tiring, she said. “There’s days when I feel like, ugh!”

Godoy is one of eight women who have gone without food since the start of the fast, but others have joined later. The fast is part of a nationwide campaign to raise the minimum wage. A few weeks ago Seattle’s new $15 minimum wage came into effect and now activists in L.A. say they need the city council to act too.

Anggie Godoy  having her blood pressure taken by nurse Pilar Chacon
Hunger striker Anggie Godoy having her blood pressure taken by nurse Pilar Chacon

Mary Carmen Farfan said she has a hard time explaining to her son why they have so little money. “I’m trying to explain” she said, “but he says, ‘mom, you’re working all day and you have no money?’”

Like many of those involved in the minimum wage campaign, Farfan is also a fast food worker. She works in the kitchen of a local Burger King but said she and her husband sometimes find it hard to put food on their own table, and can’t even afford to eat at the restaurant where she works.

Minimum wage activists have previously taken part in strikes and protests, but the fast is a new tactic for this campaign in L.A. “This tactic is only used when something is so serious and so urgent,” said Gilda Valdez, President of Fight for $15 LA and Chief of Staff for SEIU Local 721. She said that their fast right on the steps of City Hall has put pressure on councilmembers.

Among the supporters of the protest is Curren Price, councilmember for District 9 and Chair of the Economic Development Committee. Raising the minimum wage is “long overdue,” he said. He supports raising the wage to $15 by 2020, “if not sooner.”

But some councilmembers, like Bernard Parks of District 8, are concerned about going too far, too fast. He agrees with raising the minimum wage, but said he’s heard from small business owners who have expressed concerns about having to lay off workers and the cost of wage inflation.

For Anggie Godoy, the mayor and city can’t act soon enough. “We’re struggling. Our bills are due now. I need to go to college now, not in five years,” she said.