(Public News Service) SEATTLE - Today it will be tougher in Seattle to find anyone who will ask you if you "want fries with that" when you order a meal. Many fast-food workers in major U.S. cities are taking part in another one-day strike. The one-day walkout has gained momentum this year as a manageable way for workers to make their voices heard - by targeting not just a particular retailer or restaurant chain, but a low-wage industry.
Sage Wilson with Good Jobs Seattle said the folks who flip burgers and fry chicken are asking for $15 an hour.
"You know, the gap between what these large corporations are paying and what people need to get by is just too large, and we need to, all together, change that," Wilson urged. "Make sure people can afford the basics; make sure our economy can keep moving; and make sure we have a good direction for the future."
Prof. Steven Ashby has been studying these labor strategies at the University of Illinois. He said weakened labor laws have caused workers' rights groups to change their approach.
"They're turning to these innovative tactics of labor-community coalitions, the one-day strike, hitting an entire industry, organizing for the long run. And it does seem to be working - the morale of the workers is extremely high," Ashby said.
He points out that today's fast-food workers are not teenagers living at home. The average employee in that industry is 28 years old, and many lost higher-paying jobs in the recession.
One hallmark of the one-day strike is what happens the next day. Often, faith leaders or members of the community will accompany strikers back to the workplace to ensure that there's no retaliation for being part of the strike. Wilson said after the last walkout, in May, few Seattle workers reported any problems.
"This isn't sort of a 'people going on strike because they have gripes with their boss being a jerk,'" said Wilson. "This is people going on strike because their jobs don't pay enough for them to afford the basics. Sometimes the front-line managers understand that pretty well, because they're not in that different a situation."
Workers at dozens of fast-food places in the Seattle metro area will be taking part, Wilson added, as will hundreds across the country. This year, major fast-food chains have been profitable, but industry analysts have noted that it's a tough business, with high ingredient costs and many people spending less when they dine out.