'Pushed to the Edge,' Seattle's Low Wage Workers Join Sweeping Movement
Striking worker: "We have been pushed to the edge, and now we are taking a stand, and I could not be more excited, or more hopeful."
In the seventh action in just eight weeks across the United States, fast food workers in Seattle are walking off the job Thursday joining a sweeping movement of low-wage workers who have been "pushed to the edge and are now taking a stand."
"We work in one of the fastest growing industries in the nation, and our companies are making huge – even record – profits, but we barely earn enough to pay for basics like rent, food and transportation to and from work." -Caroline Durocher, striking worker
Repeating the calls made by striking workers in other cities, the Seattle workers are demanding a living wage of $15 per hour and the right to form a union without intimidation.
"The fast food strike wave represents organized labor’s most dramatic challenge to the massive, fast-growing and virtually union-free industry," writes the Nation's Josh Eidelson, adding that the fast food industry's notoriously low-wages and tenuous employment are "increasingly representative of the larger economy."
According to the Good Jobs Seattle campaign, the strike began at 10:30 PM PST Wednesday and by midday Thursday workers from dozens of fast food chains had joined the protest, with forced shutdowns at three stores: a Taco Bell and a Burger King on 15th Avenue, and a Subway on Broadway.
Following a series of morning rallies, strikers plan to converge at 4:30 PM local time for a march from Seattle's Denny Park to a number of fast food locations.
"My employer has pushed and pushed my coworkers and me and gotten everything they can out of us. This week, we joined together and pushed back," writes Caroline Durocher, one of the first to walk off her job at a local Taco Bell on Wednesday night, in an op-ed about why she was joining the action.
We work in one of the fastest growing industries in the nation, and our companies are making huge – even record – profits, but we don't see enough of that money. We barely earn enough to pay for basics like rent, food and transportation to and from work.
That's not the life I envisioned for myself three years ago, when I was working full time, while studying for an associate of arts degree. I was planning to continue my education and become a psychologist. That was the plan, and that's still the plan. But my school costs became too much of a burden, and I had to leave, just a few credits shy of my degree.
And now I feel stuck in this trap – the trap of low-wage work. I work the night shift at Taco Bell in Ballard – running the register for the drive-through, ringing up one customer while taking the order of another. It's fast-paced, hard work, but at the minimum wage of $9.19 per hour and only 27 hours per week, I don't earn enough to make ends meet.
When I ask for more hours, my boss always says the same thing: hours are competitive – the harder you work, the more hours you'll get. But I work hard, and I haven't gotten any more hours.
I am stuck in a tough spot. I can't get enough hours to get health insurance, but I only qualify for $16 a month in food stamps, which I finally decided wasn't even worth the transportation costs to continue to get them. I can't get a better-paying job, especially without a degree, but I can't afford to go back to school.
So what do I have to lose? For me and my colleagues working fast –food jobs across Seattle, the answer is, 'Nothing.' Our backs are firmly against the wall. By joining with my coworkers, I can envision a future in which I earn enough to live, eat and go back to school.
We have been pushed to the edge, and now we are taking a stand, and I could not be more excited, or more hopeful.
Employees from restaurant chains including McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Arby’s, Chipotle and more are expected to participate in the demonstration.