News Sep 4, 2013 at 4:00 am

Conservatives Throw Fits as Fast-Food Strikers Seize Control of Living-Wage Debate

One yardstick of the strike’s success was the angry, spittle-filled, right-wing backlash it generated. Kelly O


The only thing I would add is that the managers who are forced to make the fries probably aren't doing much better financially than the people they're covering for, and are almost certainly making less than $15/hr themselves. So maybe cut them a little slack.
@1 True. The managers I spoke with only earned 50 cents to a buck-fifty an hour more than the other workers. In fact, I talked to workers who turned down promotions to manager, because all the extra work wasn't worth the tiny raise.
"You're the assistant to the assistant manager. If she doesn't see your qualities, then..."
At first I was laughing at the audacity of Seattle fast food workers demanding $15/hour but then I came back out there for a visit this past July and was horrified at how expensive everything has gotten since I moved back to the East Coast in 2001. Holy shit! The rents are sickening! Atlanta, GA is pricey too but not this "first month's rent, last month's rent, and a month's rent deposit!" Good God, after you shell out that much money, you'd be eating food bank bread for the better part of a year. I wanted to move back to the Seattle area but now... guess I'll just suck it up in the sucky South for a while longer.

I worked at a Starfucks in Atlanta, GA and we only made about $7.25/hour. None of us got good hours and the district managers treated us like shit. We were all so desperate for tips that some of the assistant managers regularly stole them and pretended we hadn't gotten any. Almost everyone was stealing cookies, sandwiches, yogurt, salads, etc. because those of us who weren't going to college and living with our parents were starving, literally. Starbucks sells you on this idea that they're this great, progressive company but they nickel and dime you for everything and the amount of waste is sinful--so much perfectly good milk, coffee, tea, food being dumped down the drain or in the trash... and don't even get me started on their imbecilic sick day policies or their joke of "health care insurance".

Capitalism is great... for the people who get rich off of the toil of the poor. And, I NEVER say stuff like that... but I'm fed up with some of the corporate evil that passes itself off as "a good business model".
If you raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for people who flip burgers, what do you tell the people who worked their way through college (and maybe leave with some debt) to land a job as a an EMT or social worker that only starts off at $15 an hour? Just skip college and go straight to McDonalds for work instead to avoid the debt? How does this help people advance in life instead of just striving for the bare minimum?
@5 Maybe those college graduates should also organize themselves and demand more pay. If nobody works, companies don't make any money... and they love to make money!
The $8/hour people demand a doubling in wage. That makes the $15/hour people demand a doubling in wage. And so on and so on, causing the cost of everything to increase. The $15/hour worker can't afford anything so he buys foreign-made goods, in effect exporting poverty to some undeveloped nation, made by some 12 year old who is happy to sew t-shirts for $1/day. :=/

To quote the venerable Judge Smails, "The world needs ditch diggers too."
@7 - The minimum wage worker may be demanding a doubling, but that doesn't mean the person already making $15/hr also needs a doubling. Minimum wage jobs have backslid more over the last few decades, so they need a bigger bump than the people above them. Fast food workers used to make the equivilant to $15/hr, so this is just a long overdue adjustment for inflation. The world does indeed need ditch diggers, and a just society makes sure that even ditch diggers get a livable wage.

@5 - You miss some important considerations. First, many peole would prefer to be EMTs, even if it payed the same amount of money. Second, there is more to a job than hourly wage. EMTs get much better benefits (fast food workers usually have as close to none as employers can get away with) and more reliable hours. In addition, things like shift differential, holiday pay, etc, make the $15/hr potentially more than that.

Elizabeth Warren explaining how raising the minimum wage would have a minimal effect on costs to consumers.
@8: To 5's point, compensation is based on education, qualification & skills. Generally the more education and experience in a given field the higher the compensation. A company offers a certain amount of compensation to attract and retain someone who is able to perform a necessary duty. Very few people are qualified to be (for example) an LCSW, EMT, etc. To become skilled costs time and money. What you're saying is that a virtually unskilled burger flipper--a job never intended to be anything more than a temporary position--should be able to walk right off the street and make the same amount of money.

Illegal immigrants often work in unskilled positions. If you started paying $15/hour to all McDonald's employees there would be a dust cloud covering the southern border of the US. And those stuck in the cycle of poverty certainly wouldn't have much incentive to finish high school, go to college etc.
I think the proposal was that companies under a certain size (20 employees?) didn't have to pay their workers $15/hour. This makes me wonder a lot of things: What fraction of the minimum wage workforce works for these small companies? What happens to them when prices increase in Seattle but they're stuck at state minimum?
Does this mean that interns at the Stranger would also get a raise to $15/hr?
Personally, I'd like to see the Koch Brothers ad nauseum become forced to live on the McBudget to see just how insanely out of touch they really are to the rest of the world.
Great article. Great job Seattle. Spokane, yes, Spokane needs to be included next time. I'm betting, per capita, we have more minimum wagers here than the Seattle area. Besides, I enjoy seeing the right wingers get worked up.
repete, raising the minimum wage doesn't mean you can't pay people with more experience or more skills more money. It just means people without the same experience, skills, or education don't have to use taxpayer money to feed themselves. It's easy to say, just go to college and get a better job, but some people aren't born with the genes for higher intelligence which means even in countries where college is tax-payer funded, only 50% even get in and only 25% graduate with a degree.

Plus, if everyone did go to college, who would flip burgers? Don't assume college or high school kids would do it. Many high schools are telling kids their resume for getting into college looks better if they do volunteer work instead of flipping burgers or working retail. And there is a trend now in the better colleges of giving students PAID internships, so there is really no need for a college bound student to learn those kinds of jobs. The fact is, there is a demand to fill the sorts of jobs most people don't want but some people need to do anyway. I don't see why we can't pay them a decent wage. After all, someone has to make the burgers and ring up your clothing purchases.
@5, 8, 10: The EMT or other more skilled position has room for advancement and raises, along with the added benefits that 8 pointed out. Their wages are entry level, fast food workers don't see their wages rise in the same way.
@15: That's exactly what it means. When you set the minimum bar at a level that isn't affordable you don't have the resources to pay those who are more qualified.

If everyone goes to college who flips burgers? You're seeing that already. When Clinton said he wanted every American to have a college degree he and others failed to consider what we'd have on our hands--too many educated people for the number of jobs requiring higher education. Jobs that used to require a high school diploma now ask for a college degree for the simple reason that there are too many degrees to go around and the hiring market is more competitive. So when a college educated person gets a job that doesn't require a degree (s)he isn't making any more money but (s)he's still stuck with the debt.

My argument isn't that minimum wage shouldn't be raised periodically but that $15/hour--the higher than many entry level positions requiring a college degree--is too high in today's economy.

Finally, minimum wage jobs are intended for the unskilled and uneducated. High school and college age kids are the ideal candidates. There's a self-regulating factor in place for those who don't want to get paid next to nothing. It's called "being broke".

@16: There is room for advancement and raises in the fast food industry too. Or you can promote yourself to something that pays better. Fast food work isn't a career, it's a stop-gap.
I know ya'll are in Seattle and it's liberal as all git-out, but before you castigate the evil fast-food overlords, remember that it's all just supply vs. demand, simple high-school econ class stuff. The supply of people who can be burger-flippers is very, very high, so demand (ie. the wage required to attract this talent) will be very low. It was made very clear to me when I was young that if I wanted to earn a lot of money, I had to have something for which someone was willing to pay, skills in a low-supply area where demand was high. I worked fast-food jobs when I had no skills. It requires a suspension of reality to be in this discussion with the idea that a non-management fast-food job should support a family and provide for retirement.
@10 - First, I would challenge the idea that service industry jobs ("burger flippers" drips with just a touch too much contempt don't you think?) are just supposed to be temporary. There may have been a time when that was true. That was precisely because there were other, better jobs that did not require a college degree (blue collar factory jobs, mostly). Now that those jobs are gone, something has to fill that void, and it has largely been service jobs.

And I think many people have pointed out that they wouldn't be walking in off the street and making the same amount of money. The huge difference in benefits and the huge differential in the income potential of those jobs (i.e., what you might make after 5 or 10 years) would continue to be incentive for people to go to school.

Your emphasis on the incentive for everyone to go to college and the way you talk about unskilled labor leads me to believe that you are unaware that blue collar jobs were the same type of non-college jobs (except in factories). The fact that those unskilled jobs afforded people a middle class lifestyle is what made the economy and the middle class so strong in those decades. And it was exactly this type of organizing of the labor force that transformed those factory jobs from poverty-wage jobs to comfortable middle class jobs. The whole economy benefited from that shift.
@18 - If we were content to just let supply and demand run its natural course with no intervention we would still have child labor in factories and factories that chained the doors shut and paid practically nothing. The same type of movement that is happening now (organized labor and government regulations) transformed those terrible factory jobs of the industrial revolution into the unskilled, non management, blue collar, middle class jobs that were the backbone of the American economy for decades. There is no reason the same can't be done with service jobs.
Amazing how many of you seem to have worked/or are working at Starbucks.

Hmmm, who is Howard Schultz? What is his political affiliation?

Union leadership doesn't care about anything but Union Leadership.

If they did, you wouldn't see them paying their own protesters minimum wage.

Hey, it's Walkout Thursday, where are SEIU's PAID protesters?

Did the bus break down, or did it just get stalled on top of the workers that were thrown under it?
@18: Nailed it.

@19: "The huge difference in benefits and the huge differential in the income potential of those jobs (i.e., what you might make after 5 or 10 years) would continue to be incentive for people to go to school."

People in these positions don't seem to have any incentive to go to school. As I said, fast food jobs are a stop-gap. I doubt a single person enters into one with a long-term career in mind. They work at McDonald's for the same reason many people work where they do--it's the best thing available, a compromise between what they want to do and what's available to them.

Also, if you think unions are the only reason we have a middle class then you're missing out on a significant piece of reality. You're also conflating "blue collar" with "unskilled". And forgetting about women in the workplace. And the role of WWII in creating prosperity. To say nothing of ignoring what the unions have done to the auto industry, destroying an entire industry for the sake of some unrealistic and nonviable benefits packages.

For what it's worth, I was a burger flipper. And a server, busboy, bartender, valet and bank teller--all shit jobs--in my teens and twenties. I recognize those jobs for what they were--a bridge from one place to another. I have no contempt for burger flippers. What I do have contempt for is someone who thinks flipping burgers is a career. And people who use theoretical arguments to champion the rights of the(ir) underclass.
@brent.b/@20: "There is no reason the same can't be done with service jobs." I can think of plenty of reasons, at least for the fast-food jobs that were the subject of the article. If you want to talk about higher-value service-industry jobs, you need to acknowledge the added skills needed for those jobs, and the simple fact that not everyone will be qualified (and resulting wage disparities, natch). The industrial revolution factories gave us the production of commodities that CAN provide a "backbone" for a larger economy, so those workers had some leverage. But if our nation's GDP consists of Big Macs, Grande Macciatos, and Forever 21 T-shirts...well, we're just gonna all be poor as church mice then.
Hmmm, it appears I was right.

I got up too early to be an effective counter- protester.

Oh well, SWAT was easier on them.
@22, you're wrong.

The average human being's mind is so monolithic that there is only room for one of anything.

They'd stay forever, if their psychotic behavior didn't keep the proverbial door revolving.

To most of you, I truly wish you the best of luck after this gets your job replaced by a touch screen.
Any time this Sage Wilson guy from Working Washington is quoted I cringe like I would if I were to see my mother naked. I will never forget how awful this guy was towards the people of Delridge when he lamely tried to shut down public discussion, and in a library no less, of a major Delridge neighborhood issue. The tipper was that he doesn't even live in the Delridge neighborhood but thought he knew what was best for it. No skin in the game, no loss to him. The guy needs to get a real job or open a business before telling others what is possible or what needs to be done, then maybe he might have some street cred.
A primer in reality:

If a tree fell and no one was around to hear it, did it fall?

What do the third and fourth words in the sentence immediately preceding this one denote?

Let's play Axis and Allies.
I spent the whole day of the strike yelling at people online for their self-righteous, judgmental and ignorant comments on the plights of these workers. Plus the argument that the cost of living would skyrocket is simply a myth-the actual data doesn't support it. And that's the danger of dumbFux News and the like. They spread unsubstantiated lies that people sink their teeth into and don't seem to want to let go of, even though they don't have evidence to prove them. It's truly maddening. One girl I know commented back to me basically saying that she (a makeup counter manager at Nordstrom, 20 years old) didn't want to be "surpassed" in wage by a McDonald's worker because she felt she'd "worked so hard to get where she is." I was like, first of all bitch, a barista who's been doing their job for 5-10 years HAS ALREADY worked a lot harder than you. I was horrified by how the majority of comments on a local news site, that usually contains an even number of libs and republican views, was almost completely republican leaning. I was horrified. This is Seattle, right? I didn't wake up in Texas this morning? I'm truly shocked at how people will throw their friends and neighbor's ability to survive, their futures to the curb to make themselves feel like better "achievers." I felt like a total troll cause I was literally doing it all day.
@26: That's the MO of many crusaders: Assume you know what's best for someone--often a group you have nothing more than a tenuous academic/theoretic relationship with, usually inferior* people of some sort--assume you know what they want and then speak (unsolicited) on their behalf.

*underprivileged, marginalized, disenfranchised
@28: When you think everyone is crazy but you sometimes you're the one who's crazy. That other people don't have a right to an informed opinion, to assert that yours is the only valid opinion to have, is a liberal, enlightened (and therefore Democrat :-/) position?
At current wages there's little reason for McDonalds and other fast food places to spend money on automation. But at what point does it become more cost effective for McDonalds to install machines to make fries? Right now, it's cheaper to have a human put the fries in the basket, put the basket in the oil, wait, take the basket out of the oil, shake it, salt it, and put it into serving cartons. But is there any step of that process that couldn't be done by a machine? Is there any part of the burger cooking and assembly process that couldn't be automated?

At their current wages fast food workers are less expensive than machines. At what point are they more expensive? And what will happen then?
Let Seattle's progressive-owned bistros, coffee shops, artisanal cupcake vendors and such lead the way by paying their workers $15 per hour. Set an example, people.
One of the best effects of an improved wage is the provocation of labor-saving tech advancement. It would be fine with me if fast food lost its employment function. shitty work should be done by robots and software. interesting thing about making lackies less mprtant is managers get less crucial, 2.

There's much simple, useful work to be done, for which demand is not manifest in the market because prospective customers have too little money, namely tutoring for high schoolers and care for childz and oldiez.

If people on the bottom rung make more, contributors who'ren't az ntrchngbl make more, 2: boss must outbid multitudinous dead-end offers for EMT stud.

Progressive organizations should've picked up this playbook much earlier on, municipal ballot initiatives re: wages and care service hiring programs > than allowing lame DNC donation slurping

excited re: prejudiced wage bills like in Seatac and DC
It is a union problem, not a government problem.

This site lists Seattle locals of the SEIU

Once a majority of a local employer has joined a union the business must negotiate. Union business should not be discussed inside the business until a contract is signed. Maybe a car could be parked on the street with the local's name and address.
@31: Have you ever seen the long-syndicated b&w TV series, The Twilight Zone from the 50s and 60s? Check out the episode in which the coroprate CEO INSISTS on going fully automated--computers are "the way of the future". So Joe Corporate fires all his human employees--including the most loyal to the company who put in as many as 40 years into the company, only to have nothing to show for their tireless years of dedication--who are all heartlessly replaced by automated machines.

One day, there is a memo sent to the CEO by the Board of Directors. They all meet one morning on the top floor. The Board of Directors---ALL COMPUTERS surrounding a long mohogany table---unanimously decided electronically that humans were officially obsolete, and the CEO--the last human working for the now fully automated company--was fired.

Moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for on the corporate ladder!
@37: *@?!ing typo! Arrrggh!! I meant to type the word "corporate" on the second line.

But that 50+ year old TV episode from way back when does make one think!

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