UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. | A strike by fast food workers has hit restaurants in Seattle today and organizers say more restaurants have been targeted by the movement.
A Lake City Burger King closed up shop for the day after workers walked out this morning, according to organizers Strike for Poverty. The restaurants owners couldn’t be reached for comment.
The organizers say the Burger King walk out is just the first of many to come today.
(New) At about 12:30 p.m., some 70 people had gathered at a Subway shop on Capitol Hill in support of workers there, but the shop was still doing business.
Trevor Bagley, who’s worked full-time at the Subway for the past five months, said he’s paid minimum wage, has no benefits and the job is his only source of income. He said someone with Good Jobs Seattle contacted him several months ago about the strike. The group is calling for a base wage of $15 an hour.
“We’re sending the message out that many of us who are providing the basic everyday services, in many of the positions that many take for granted, we aren’t always able to make the simple ends meet,” said Bagley, who lives with his family. “With the inflated costs of food and gas, $9.18 is simply not enough to live off.”
“In this city, even of you work full time like I am, you need to choose between a car and an apartment, essentially. You can’t afford both.”
The strike came just hours after a strike late Wednesday evening caused a Taco Bell in Ballard to shut down due to short staffing, according to organizers.
Will Pittz with Washington Community Action Network said workers are asking for a living wage of $15 per hour and the right to unionize without retaliation. He said more workers are planning to walk off the job and strike at numerous Seattle-area fast food restaurants, though he could not say exactly how many restaurants or workers would be involved.
“It’s pretty organic,” Pittz said. “We don’t actually know where it [the strikes] will happen.”
Recently, similar campaigns have been waged in New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.
Pittz said that even though the strikes are being organized, at least in part, by Good Jobs Seattle, workers are ultimately deciding what to do and when to do it.
“Right now they’re trying to raise awareness,” Pittz said. “It’s not a coincidence that the corporations are making record profits and workers are struggling. Workers see that and it motivates them to do something about it.”
David Freiboth, executive secretary of the King County Labor Council, said the council wasn’t directly involved in Thursday’s events, but supports the walkouts.
“We were apprised of the effort and we support the effort . . . This very much has the element of a popular uprising,” he said.
Freiboth said workers in other industries might also benefit by the action, simply because it could make the public aware how impractical it is to expect workers to live on the minimum wage, $9.19 an hour in this state.
He said he believes the public would be willing to pay more for hamburgers and other fast food if they knew it would benefit struggling workers.
But he also believes that restaurant chains could absorb some of the additional expense without passing it all along to the consumers. “Were talking about big corporations with large profit margins,” he said.
Good Jobs Seattle said that a rally is planned for 4:30 p.m. at Denny Park, followed by a march to nearby fast food locations, including McDonald’s.
Seattle Times columnist and blogger Jon Talton writes about the strike.