Fast food workers protest wages with more rallies

SEATTLE — Fast-food workers and union activists rallied outside restaurants in the Seattle area Thursday to call for a $15-an-hour minimum wage as part of a multistate protest.

Organizers said demonstrations would be held throughout the day near fast-food restaurants like Subway, Jimmy Johns, and Wendy’s. Demonstrators also protested outside Starbucks and some small local bakeries early Thursday.

Similar protests organized by unions and community groups in cities over the past several months have brought considerable media attention to a staple of the fast-food industry — the so-called “McJobs” that are known for their low pay and limited prospects.

The minimum wage in Washington is $9.19.

A few dozen people gathered at a Subway restaurant in downtown Seattle shortly after 8 a.m. Workers inside the store said they stayed open during the demonstration and customers made it inside to make purchases. At one point, some protesters went inside the store but were unsuccessful in their attempts to encourage workers to leave.

Pamela Townsel, 60, who lives above the restaurant at the YWCA, was not happy about the early morning noise below. She remembers protesting the Vietnam War and said she agreed with the message of the protesters but not their approach.

“All they care about is, `I want to make more than $10 an hour,”’ she said. “I just think they went about it the wrong way.”

A few blocks away, at Specialty’s Cafe and Bakery, The Seattle Times reported 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 another Specialty’s restaurant.

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

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