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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

August 29, 2013 at 7:28 AM

Seattle-area fast-food workers march for higher pay

Protesters march Thursday outside the Wendy's in Ballard, at the corner of 15th Avenue NW and NW 54th Street. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Strikers protest Thursday outside the Wendy’s in Ballard, at the corner of 15th Avenue NW and NW 54th Street. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

About 100 demonstrators gathered at Westlake Center in Seattle this morning on a day they hoped would see fast-food workers walking off their jobs and demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Today’s protests are part of a national effort and were under way in cities across the country including New York, Chicago and Detroit.

UPDATE: 9:50 a.m. | At Westlake, a large cheer went up when workers were told protesters successfully closed down a McDonalds restaurant in Detroit.

Protesters said they went to three locations early this morning: a Starbucks in the 1100 block of Fourth Avenue, Specialty’s Coffee in the 1000 block of Third Avenue and Top Pot Doughnuts in the 700 block of Third Avenue.

Vans were expected to take protesters to various fast-food outlets during the day while some protesters planned to focus their efforts in downtown Seattle.

Organizers say they hope that their demonstrations will build throughout the day, ending with a rally at Plymouth Pillars Park at Pike Street and Boren Avenue.

One Seattle demonstrator, David Rolf, president of SEIU, Local 775, which represents health-care workers,  said it’s hard to predict exactly what would occur today, noting that demonstrations in the Seattle area three months ago were “a little viral and a little chaotic.”

Those earlier protests and demonstrations occurred at several locations in May.

Shortly after 8 a.m. today, a group of about 20 demonstrators arrived at a Subway shop at Fifth Avenue and Seneca Street downtown, and a handful of them went inside and unsuccessfully tried to get the woman behind the counter to join them.

Then outside the shop, one demonstrator spray-painted the word “Strike” on the sidewalk as the group chanted, “We want change. And we don’t mean pennies.”

Outside Columbia Center on Fourth Avenue, about 20 demonstrator were joined by two young men who said they walked off their job at Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery to participate in the strike.

“I feel like if no one stands up now, it will never happen,” said one of the men, a barista who identified himself simply as Tyler.  He said he started work two weeks ago and is paid $10 an hour.

Their walkout didn’t close down the store.

At another Specialty’s, this one at Fifth Avenue and Union Street, a worker brought demonstrators a plate of sandwiches but said she could not join the group, which included her older brother.

“I feel for you guys, but I just can’t do it. I have too many bills to pay. And I love my job,” said barista Cambria McMahon, 19, who’s worked for Specialty’s for nine months. Her older brother, Garrett, 22, is one of two Specialty’s workers who joined the demonstrators an hour earlier at Columbia Center.

“It was definitely scary walking out,” he said. “But I feel if I don’t do something, countless people are going to be stuck in the same rut I am.”

Local demonstrators were expected to bring their protest to several other fast-food locations around town today.

At $9.19 an hour, Washington state has the highest minimum wage in the country.

Gov. Jay Inslee says he supports fast-food workers, but not the $15 hour minimum.


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