More than a 100 people packed into McDonald’s at 24th and Mission early today, but they weren’t looking for an Egg McMuffin. They wanted a living wage and offered a bargain of their own: increase the minimum wage and taxpayers will save millions of dollars.

“I want to get off government support,” said John D’Amanda, who has worked at a McDonald’s in Oakland for five years and earns $12.25 an hour. The franchise offers him only 25 hours a week so he earns about $800 a month. How does someone live in the Bay Area on $800 a month? He pays $350 to share a room and shops at a Food Bank.

As soon as he can fix an error in his paper work, he will be back on food stamps.

The action at McDonald’s was part of a national day of strikes on a day – 4/15 – that echoed the demands for a $15 an hour minimum-wage. It’s an idea floated two years ago that has gained momentum across the country. In San Francisco the minimum wage – now $11.05 – will rise in increments to reach $15 an hour by July, 2018.

Photo by Lydia Chávez

Inside McDonald’s listening to the speeches. Photo by Lydia Chávez

Seattle’s too will reach $15 an hour in 2018 and other cities have upped their game from the national minimum wage of $7.25 to eventually get to $13 an hour.

The movement has been getting plenty of help from economists – later today Robert Reich will speak at a rally in Berkeley and on Monday UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education offered them ample ammunition in a new report.

“Persistent low wages are costing taxpayers approximately $153 billion every year in public support to working families, including $25 billion at the state level,” according to the report. 

The workers gathered today at McDonald’s reflected that report, with most  getting by on food stamps and rent subsidies.

“I’m striking the whole day,” said a 19-year-old student at Laney College who also works at a McDonald’s in Oakland.  The young student lives with her grandmother in subsidized housing – their rent went up when she turned 19 – and she barely manages to survive on the $12.25 an hour she earns.

Noesha Megehee, who has worked at another McDonald’s for two years, said she started at $8 an hour and has worked her way up to $12.25. Her goal – like many of those there with the East Bay Fast Food workers – is to get better wages and a union.

Photo by Lydia Chávez

Photo by Lydia Chávez

Employers would earn more money, she said, if they had employees who were better paid and happier in their jobs.

Berkeley labor economist Reich agrees. “More money in the pockets of low-wage workers means more sales, especially in the locales they live in – which in turn creates faster growth and more jobs,” Reich wrote in his blog. “A major reason the current economic recovery is anemic is that so many Americans lack the purchasing power to get the economy moving again.”

“It’s been a great show of support,” said George Jackson, a member of the SEIU.

As workers filed out to leave for Oakland and Berkeley, the women behind the counter looked at a loss.  Most declined to speak when asked what they thought of  the morning’s speeches calling for higher wages. One, however, said “Yes, that’s the same for here.”

After the protesters left. Photo by Lydia Chávez

After the protesters left. Photo by Lydia Chávez