A Seattle Taco Bell shut down by the citywide strike. (Photo courtesy of GoodJobsSeattle.org)
An update appears below.
Beginning at 10:30 pm Pacific Time Wednesday, workers at dozens of Seattle fast food locations began striking, launching the nation’s seventh work stoppage by fast food employees in eight weeks. Organizers expect workers from chains including McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Arby’s, Chipotle, Qdoba and Jack in the Box to participate in the walkout, which will last roughly twenty-four hours.
“I’m sick of seeing my co-workers and me essentially get pushed and pushed and barely be able to eat,” Taco Bell employee Caroline Durocher told The Nation Wednesday. “And I think it’s time that we pushed them back.” Durocher said she’s hopeful that both co-workers on her late night shift will walk off the job with her.
Like recent fast food strikers in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Detroit, the Seattle strikers are holding a one-day walkout to demand a raise to $15 per hour and the right to form a union without intimidation. Like those cities’ strikes, Seattle’s is supported by a coalition of labor and community groups; in each case, the Service Employees International Union has been involved in supporting the organizing efforts. The Seattle campaign, Good Jobs Seattle, is backed by groups including Working Washington, the Washington Community Action Network and OneAmerica.
The Seattle strike comes two weeks after New York’s fast food workers campaign released a report alleging rampant wage theft in the industry, and hours after the Congressional Progressive Caucus announced plans for a nationwide tour focused on low wages and economic inequality. It also follows a day-long strike last week in Washington, DC, staged by federally-contracted workers—including fast food employees at federal buildings—demanding that President Obama take executive action to improve their working conditions.
Asked Wednesday about the previous strikes, a Burger King spokesperson e-mailed, “For decades, Burger King restaurants have provided an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans, including many of the system’s franchisees who began their careers working at local Burger King restaurants.” Noting that nearly all of its restaurants are owned and operated by franchisees, the company added, “Burger King restaurants offer compensation and benefits that are consistent with the QSR [Quick-Service Restaurant] industry. Burger King Corp. does not make employment-related decisions for our franchisees.” Taco Bell and McDonald’s did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.