Minimum wage workers need a raise - to $15

Check out the Op-Ed published in The News Tribune by Jesse Griggs, a Tacoma McDonald's worker with Working Washington.

By Jesse Griggs

Everyone says Tacoma is cheaper than Seattle, but I can still barely afford to live here on my fast food paycheck. I work 40 hours a week for McDonald’s and I still have an empty fridge.

It’s time to raise up Tacoma by making sure fast food workers like me and my co-workers get paid at least $15 an hour.

These big chains can definitely afford it. Last year, McDonald’s made more than $5 billion in profit. Me, I make about $1,200 a month after taxes. My rent is $750. Everything else goes to bills. There’s not anything left for clothes. I can barely get food. And I definitely can’t go out. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie.

Getting paid $15 might not sound like much, but it would mean I could eat. I’d actually be able to start saving. I could go to school. Maybe even get a car.

The fast food chains like to say they can’t afford to pay more, but I’ve worked at a few different chains, and it’s obvious when you work there who’s really in charge. The franchises have corporate meetings, where corporate teaches them how to make a buck, how to price their food and how to promote it.

The corporate people come in once a month and do inspections. They analyze how you work and they even tell the owner whether or not you should be on the schedule.

The whole point is for all the different locations to be the same. Customers go to a Subway or a McDonald’s because of the brand, and because of the brand, it makes money. They can definitely afford to pay us better.

When workers like me get paid more, that means more people can go out and spend money. Small business will have more customers and the area will improve, because if people like me and my co-workers get a few extra dollars, we're going to spend the money right here in Tacoma. If that money keeps going back to some corporate headquarters instead, who knows when we'll ever see it around here again?

So I was glad to hear that the community leaders on Tacoma’s minimum wage task force came up with a plan to raise the wage to $15 over several years. As long as there’s no loophole for fast food franchises, it’s a good proposal.

But for some reason the mayor is ignoring it. She even said, “I don’t think I heard a lot of support from people saying they wanted to get to $15.” Instead, she’s proposing that workers like me should only get paid $12 an hour – three years from now.

She should listen to her own task force and to workers like me: We need to get to $15.

The mayor has made her proposal, but it’s not too late for the City Council to avoid a divisive ballot fight by passing a minimum wage proposal based on the work of the task force – one that actually gets fast food workers to a living wage.

We’ll wait to see what council does, but if we’re faced with a choice in November between a quick raise to $15 and a slow path to $12, it’s pretty clear which we’ll choose.

Poverty wages are already holding us back, and Tacoma can’t afford to wait much longer.