Make us your home page

As low-wage jobs gain momentum, so do protests over pay

Fast-food worker LaShonna-Kyrell Delgardo makes $8.30 an hour as the 3-11 p.m. shift leader at a Dunkin' Donuts in Tampa. Look for her early this morning as she joins fellow workers protesting for higher wages outside her shop on E Busch Boulevard.

"I want to go back to school, but I work awkward hours," says Delgardo, 28 and single parent of a 2-year-old daughter. "A raise would mean I would not have to work so many hours, so I could do that."

As national protests by low-wage retail workers swell and join those targeting Walmart, some fast-food workers in Tampa will stage walkouts today. They are part of a 100-city strike and protest day by employees fighting for an hourly fast-food wage of $15 and the right to organize without hassles by employers.

For Delgardo, a bump to $15 would represent an 80 percent increase in pay. That's not likely, especially in low-paying Florida, where wages are stagnant. And thinly represented unions aren't likely to grab greater hold here.

What does Delgardo have to lose? A yearly wage barely topping $17,000 does not go far. Despite a promotion and 85-cent hourly raise, she's stretched just to cover $650 a month for rent. Without a car, she walks to work. When her food stamps run out each month, she scrapes together $100 to cover the rest.

Her certifications from Hillsborough Community College in phlebotomy and as an EKG technician did little to help her find related work in a still-weak job market.

Welcome to the low-wage economy. It has generated plenty of jobs in Florida since the recession. But in the process, it has left many folks more vulnerable and saddled with lower living standards.

In Tampa, workers from at least two fast-food businesses plan to protest their low-wage predicament. After the Dunkin' Donuts gathering captures the attention of early area commuters, a nearby KFC will be the site of a late-afternoon protest.

The national, union-supported movement has grown steadily this year, with fast-food workers at nearly a thousand restaurants in 60 cities — including Tampa — first striking briefly on Aug. 29.

On Black Friday, at least 100 workers and supporters were arrested in eight cities as Walmart workers protested at 1,500 stores nationwide. They called for Walmart to commit to paying workers $25,000 a year, providing full-time work and ending what employees say is illegal retaliation.

Lately, advocates of higher wages cleverly point out that the fast-food industry, by paying so little and offering few benefits, forces workers to rely on government aid — at hefty taxpayer expense.

"The overwhelming share of jobs in the fast-food industry pay low wages that force millions of workers to rely on public assistance in order to afford health care, food and other basic necessities," says a recent report by the National Employment Law Project.

So if you stop for doughnuts or fried chicken and see the protests, give a honk. Or buy them a meal.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

As low-wage jobs gain momentum, so do protests over pay 12/04/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 5, 2013 11:18am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Florida's jobless rate looks great — but 25 other state rates look even better

    Economic Development

    No debate here: Florida's unemployment rate continues to drop — even as more people move to Florida and enter the workforce. What's not to like?

    Who remembers the remarkable lines of hundreds of people looking for construction work in Tampa back in March of 2010 at a job fair at the Encore construction site near downtown Tampa? Now the construction industry is struggling to find skilled workers to meet building demand. [
  2. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  3. Miami woman, 74, admits to voter fraud. Does jail await, or will she go free?

    State Roundup

    MIAMI — A 74-year-old woman pleaded guilty Monday to filling out other people's mail-in ballots while working at Miami-Dade's elections department.

    Gladys Coego
  4. Bigger ships carry Georgia ports to record cargo volumes

    Economic Development

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Bigger ships arriving through an expanded Panama Canal pushed cargo volumes at Georgia's seaports to record levels in fiscal 2017, the Georgia Ports Authority announced Monday.

    The Port of Savannah moved a record 3.85 million container units in fiscal 2017, the state said, benefiting from the larger ships that can now pass through an expanded Panama Canal.
  5. Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride


    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.