Seattle fast-food workers demand more pay

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SEATTLE — Better pay and a better way of life — that’s what fast food workers in Seattle and across the nation are demanding.

Thursday the workers staged strikes and protests at several fast-food chains, including Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell and Jimmy John’s.

The average fast-food employee makes just over $9 an hour or about $18,500 a year. Now, workers are taking to the street to demand a pay raise to $15 an hour. In addition to better pay, many fast-food workers also want to be able to unionize and demonstrate without fear of retaliation.

“We deserve more,” Bryan Parker, a Wendy’s employee who joined protestors outside his workplace in Ballard, said.

He admitted he was worried about picketing outside his employer. “Yeah, there’s fear. Every one of us is scared about remaining employed, being able to pay our bills. But we’re not going to let this fear control us.”

The minimum wage in Washington is $9.19 an hour, the highest in the nation, but protesters say it’s not enough.

”If I had money I wouldn’t be taking food from the trash,” Coulson Loptman said. Loptman was recently fired from Starbucks for eating an expired sandwich that had been thrown away, which the coffee franchise considers stealing. Loptman believes he had no choice on the small wages he makes.

“I’d really like if we got a livable wage,” Loptman said. “That way this doesn’t happen to other people, like someone with a son or a daughter they can barely take care of.”

But what about business owners who might have to pay the $15 an hour?

Ben Kulikowski, who owns Benito’s Restaurant in Ballard, said if he were required to pay his employees that much “it would be pretty devastating.”

Kulikowski said that most of his employees make $15 an hour or more, because they earn tips. But if he paid that hourly rate protesters are demanding, he’d be out of business.

“If I had to go across the board and raise all of my employees mandatory to 15 bucks an hour, yeah, I’d probably close my doors.”

According to the Washington Restaurant Association, a major increase in the minimum wage would double labor costs at all Seattle restaurants and force many to close.

As for the national fast-food chains, McDonalds released a statement saying:

“The story promoted by the individuals organizing these events does not provide an accurate picture of what it means to work at McDonald’s. We respect the strong relationship which exists among McDonald’s, our independent operators, and the employees who work in McDonald’s restaurants. Our restaurants remain open, with our dedicated employees providing strong service to our customers.

“McDonald’s aims to offer competitive pay and benefits to our employees. We provide training and professional development for all of those who wish to take advantage of those opportunities. Our history is full of examples of individuals who worked their first job with McDonald’s and went on to successful careers both within and outside of McDonald’s.”

A Wendy’s restaurant spokesperson also responded, saying they often pay higher than the minimum wage.

“We are proud to provide a place where thousands of people, who come to us asking for a job, can enter the workforce at a starting wage, gain skills and advance with us or move on to something else,” the spokesperson said. “The vast majority of our restaurant employees make above the federal minimum wage.”

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  • Annmarie

    You will never get $15 an hour. If they raise your pay they will have to raise everyone else’s. I have a four year degree, student loans and make just over $16 dollars. If you want better pay. Go to college and earn it. If you all demand a $6 hike then everyone will have to have one. It will NEVER happen. Our country is already in debt. You all are stupid for risking your jobs. Others will gladly take your position

  • Matt

    Going to college is not the best choice. I have a four year degree and the only job I can find is cleaning sewer tanks. Degree don’t mean anything.

  • Gazoo

    I'm being paid $22/hr as an airline pilot at ExpressJet regional airline. This is industry standard for all regionals. I only get paid for the time I'm flying not the time in the airport or time away from home. My pay is based on 75/hrs per month where as most people are paid on 160/month which makes my equivalent pay $10.63/hr. There are 200/day relying on my skills to make sure they arrive safely I wonder if pilots should strike for more pay? What would happen to the cost of an airline ticket if we did get paid more? Oh by the way it cost most pilots $160,000 to get to that $22/hr job. Hhhmmmmm where is my $20 burger

  • Xuven

    I have been to fast food restaurants when the till malfunctioned ..and the person could not even figure outbhow to count my change back…. Something I learned in elementary school, and this is the type of person that thinks they are worth $15 an hour… If you want better money then get a better job.. I know people that have a BA that don't make $15 an hour…. AND COULD SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME WHAT ANTI BUSNESS ORGANAZATION IS PUSHING THIS… And to the news media IT IS ONLY IN ABOUT 50 CITY'S. 1/4 of 1 percent of US city's if you would quit reporting on it it will go away.

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