The Mercury News

More strikes could be on the horizon

`Fed-up' workers demand more amid rising cost of living

- By Mackenzie Mays

Fast-food cooks and cashiers. Caretakers. Housekeepe­rs. Hospital staff. School bus drivers. Custodians. State employees.

Workers from all kinds of industries are demanding more in wages and benefits to keep up with the rising cost of living in California. They are backed by a wave of Democratic-led legislatio­n making its way through the state Capitol converging with ballot measures and funding requests from Gov. Gavin Newsom to create a workers rights moment that seems unique even for one of the most union-friendly states in the nation.

The calls come as support staff at Los Angeles Unified, the country's second-largest school district, walked out of classrooms on strike and state workers rallied outside the Capitol in Sacramento.

“We used to be able to afford to go out to eat, but even fast food is expensive … we would donate to the food banks and now we're finding ourselves going to those same food banks to get things for ourselves,” Tammy Rodriguez, an employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles and a member of SEIU Local 1000, said through tears on the steps of the Capitol on Monday ahead of contract negotiatio­ns with the state. “As state employees, we should be able to afford just everyday things.”

Earlier this month, domestic workers such as nannies and housekeepe­rs stood on those same steps pushing for the passage of a bill by state Sen. María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, that would grant them the occupation­al safety protection­s offered to most other employees in the state.

“I actually suffered a miscarriag­e because of the level of dangerous conditions that I experience­d,” Mirna Arana, a member of the California Domestic Workers Coalition, said in Spanish through a translator, describing cleaning up to 10 houses a day at the peak of her workload. “No other workers should experience what I experience­d.”

Tia Orr, executive director of

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