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Martha Coakley hears from fast-food workers

Martha Coakley kicked off what her campaign billed as a “listening tour” focused on building an economy that gives everyone a “fair shot” in Dorchester Monday.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/File

Martha Coakley kicked off what her campaign billed as a “listening tour” focused on building an economy that gives everyone a “fair shot” in Dorchester Monday.

Hands clasped on the table in front of her, she listened and nodded as fast-food workers spoke about what they described as the pervasive, grinding indignities of working behind the counter at familiar chains. She spoke about how well Wall Street and big company CEOs were doing.

And, after hearing a lot of stories from low-wage workers, Attorney General Martha Coakley declared: “Well, it’s not fair.”

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The Democratic gubernatorial hopeful kicked off what her campaign billed as a “listening tour” focused on building an economy that gives everyone a “fair shot” in Dorchester Monday. She attempted to evince empathy and understanding, as workers told of long shifts in uncomfortable conditions at minimum wage, without any breaks.

One of workers Coakley spoke with was Brenda Figueroa, 19, of Dorchester, who said she worked 60-80 hours a week behind the counter at Burger King and as a security guard. Figueroa said she had an associate’s degree in criminal justice and hoped to go into law enforcement.

“Good for you,” Coakley said. “We need more women police officers.”

Speaking to reporters after the discussion — which was organized, in part, by MASSUniting, a coalition of labor, faith and community organizations — she struck a note of economic populism, insisting that income inequality was a top issue in the state and the country.

“In a place where we have so much wealth here and we have so much success and we have so much turning this economy around, we still find — as you heard from folks today — people whose full-time jobs and, often, second full-time jobs are at a minimum wage that barely lets them pay for rent.” she said.

Asked what, specifically, she would do as governor to help the workers she heard from, Coakley spoke in broad generalities. She said she favored raising the minimum wage and supported the ability of workers to organize in a union.

Treasurer Steven Grossman, one of Coakley’s gubernatorial competitors also kicked off his own tour focused on economic issues today. He was set to visit a career center in Salem and an affordable housing non-profit in Taunton.

Coakley, Grossman and Donald M. Berwick, a former federal Medicare and Medicaid chief, are the three Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to succeed Governor Deval Patrick, who is not running for a third term. Also in the race: two Republicans and three independents.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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