A McDonald’s worker was fired last month because he offered food to a homeless person, labor organizers are saying. Leobardo Meza was fired on Oct. 14 by a McDonald’s franchise in San Diego after six years of service. And over his career he joined the movement spreading across the country to call for better working conditions for fast food workers. The activists are calling for the federal minimum wage to be raised to $15 an hour. Meza, for his part, is saying his activism is what got him fired. The franchise owner, Bob Sutherland, denied that the dismissal was caused by either the activism or the incident in question. “I respect an employee’s right to protest lawfully and peacefully,” Sutherland is quoted as saying in a statement provided by the McDonald’s corporate communications team. “The accusations being made are absolutely false… His separation from my business is unrelated to whether or not he gave food to a homeless person.”
Sutherland is also saying he’s not legally allowed to explain exactly why Meza was fired. And amid the confusion, activists are jumping on the storyline regarding the feeding of a homeless person. As a result, protests attended by several hundred people have been organized at the McDonald’s in San Diego. Organizers are saying they won’t stop until Meza is reinstated, as was reported by the local Fox outlet.
In speaking to the Fox outlet, Meza expressed a desire to avoid conflict. “I don’t want to fight,” he said. “I am only fighting for my rights.”
According to the local ABC News outlet, Meza recently bought a hamburger for a homeless person stationed outside his McDonald’s. And as local man Ken Helms, who says he often spends time outside the franchise, told ABC, “he’s being singled out and he’s a good, good-hearted soul.”
Meza, for his part, has said the practice of helping out the homeless is a “common overlooked practice.” Meza participated in the nationwide protests organized by and for fast food workers on August 29. And as it has been reported, thousands of fast food workers walked out on their job during the day of action, which was organized to mark the 50th Anniversary of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Justice,” at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his speech, “I have a dream.”
The participants and their supporters are calling for a doubling of the minimum wage to $15. Currently most fast food workers earn incomes closer to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which they say is not sufficient, given that the median age of fast food workers is now 28.