Lake City Burger King shuts down after striking workers walk out.
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  • Lake City Burger King shuts down after striking workers walk out.

A Lake City Burger King was forced to shut down early this morning after workers walked out in solidarity with a citywide fast food strike. A sign posted to the window says that "all employees" walked out. Last night a Ballard Taco Bell was forced to close two hours due to striking workers. Similar actions are planned today at fast food restaurants in the University District, Georgetown, Capitol Hill, and throughout Seattle.

The boldness displayed by workers thus far is impressive considering what they are up against. Federal law protects workers from being fired in retaliation for an organized, companywide walkout, but who is to say what is retaliation? Fast food workers are at the mercy of managers who routinely cut and change their schedule at whim, and very few are given enough weekly hours to qualify for benefits as a full time employee. Turnover rates are typically high, and it is commonplace for workers to have their hours slashed or eliminated with little or no explanation. Striking workers know this, yet they're still prepared to take that risk.

Meanwhile, it's hard to put a finger on exactly what the workers hope to achieve apart from the broader demand for a living wage. Most fast food restaurants are owned by franchisees, which means that by law, workers cannot unionize against the giant corporation at the top. So the typical union model doesn't seem to apply.

That makes this rolling multi-city fast food workers strike all the more remarkable. The workers have everything to lose, but no tangible outcome—like a union vote—in reach.

UPDATE: Strike organizers report that two Subways and a Chipotle have also been shut down.