The Workers Rights Community Collaborative stand together with their fists up and holding signs that read, "Workers united for justice."
Workers at 24th and Mission Bart Plaza. Photo by Carolyn Stein

On a misty Wednesday morning, some 50 people, including cooks, janitors and drivers, celebrated tomorrow’s scheduled raise of minimum wage in San Francisco to $16.99.

The San Francisco Workers Rights Community Collaborative organized the gathering at the 24th Street BART Plaza. The collaborative, made up of seven worker-advocacy groups, cooperates with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to make sure workers earn a livable wage.

Demonstrators stood together with signs that read, “Necesitamos acceso a tiempo libre pagado y días por enfermedad de las trabajadores de hogar” (We need access to paid time off and sick days for home workers). While the bump in minimum wage was welcome, workers said there is still much progress to be made. 

“The minimum wage has been going up every year, but fights have been going on for decades,” said Azucena Freeman, a member of Trabajadores Unidos (Workers United) and manager for the janitors at the Five Keys homeless shelter. “We want the minimum wage to go up even more. The minimum should be $25.” The crowd cheered in agreement.

Azucena Freeman. Photo by Carolyn Stein.

Eder Juárez, who cooks for different restaurants in the city, says that, although the rise in minimum wage is good, it’s not keeping up with inflation. 

“If things were lowered a little bit more, well, it would help us a little bit,” he said.

Having a bad experience with his previous employer, whom he said stiffed him of his money for five weeks before shutting down, which left him without a job for three months during the pandemic, he’s grateful that organizations like Trabajadores Unidos exist to advocate for workers.

“Workers who are working below minimum wage deserve the raise. They work for it,” he said.

A Chinese massage worker tells her experience of not getting paid minimum wage. Video by Susan Kikcuhi.

Workers also spoke of wanting more enforcement of labor laws, educating other workers about their rights through outreach, and also making sure the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement has enough employees to do the job.

“We want the freedom to organize pathways for better jobs,” said Susan Kikcuhi, who is a part of the Chinese Progressive Association. “There’s so much we have to do next, but now we’re just celebrating the raise.”

Additional reporting by Carolyn Stein.

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Intern Reporter. William moved to the Bay Area from Nashville to pursue a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley. He's covered police reform in Oakland and also investigates correctional officer misconduct at the Investigative Reporting Program. You'll mostly see him behind a camera. Follow him on Twitter @WilliamJenk_

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  1. $16.99? What’s with these bean counters? It sounds like an ad for some product; why not $17 using the KISS principle?