Hundreds of local workers and supporters marched and chanted through downtown Long Beach Friday morning, calling for paid sick days, an increase to minimum wage and investigations into possible wage theft by employers.
Demonstrators, led by members of the Long Beach Raise the Wage Campaign, began at the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel on Ocean Boulevard, down Pine Avenue, onto Broadway and Pacific Avenue before ending in front of Long Beach City Hall.
At one point, marchers packed a Subway restaurant—located on the corner of Broadway and Pacific Avenue—calling for $15-an-hour wages and an end to wage theft.
Protesters ended the demonstration with a news conference at the Centennial Plaza inside the Civic Center, featuring speeches by workers from different industries.
One of the workers was Francisco Abdul Estin—who has been working as a banquet server for the Long Beach Westin Hotel for 26 years.
“I take great pride in the work I do,” said Estin, a father of four. “Although the law requires that you take a 10 minute break, I usually have to work through my breaks because I am bound to serve our customers if no one is available.”
Estin said that he has only taken two 10-minute breaks in all his years of working for the hotel.
Anthony Vellecillo—a warehouse worker who helps move goods for companies like Amazon, Lowes and Sears—said as an employee of a temporary staffing agency he does not receive benefits such as paid vacation and sick days.
“There’s been times when I went really sick to work and... I know that if i miss, it's going to hurt my family and me,” Vellecillo said.
In addition, Vellecillo—who has been on disability for about two months—said he has to pay nearly $1,000 a year to pay for tools, safety equipment and uniform.
Vellecillo said he and his colleagues learned that the warehouse was stealing from their wages by not giving them overtime when they clocked in early and when they clocked out late.
“It’s time to put an end to this practice by our employers,” Estin said. “Please let's make sure that all workers are paid for every hour we work. We need all employees to be respected, to be treated with dignity.”
Last Thursday, a day before the demonstration, the city furthered along its proposed minimum wage study by announcing the implementation of a community review process.
“It is important that we move forward with a community process that is collaborative, open and balanced,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a statement.
The review process, which will consist of community meetings to garner feedback and provide transparency in September, October and November, was approved by the city council at its Tuesday regular meeting.