An energetic crowd of about 50 people gathered in downtown Olympia on Thursday to rally support for a $15 per hour minimum wage in the city.
The rally was organized by Working Washington, a group known for supporting similar causes in SeaTac and Seattle.
The rally started at Sylvester Park about 2 p.m., and continued to Olympia City Hall. The group did not march in the street, but took sidewalks to city hall.
The rally attracted a small police presence.
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Some in attendance had some connection to Working Washington. One was a worker who supports a higher minimum wage — and was wearing a green Working Washington t-shirt — but doesn’t organize for the group.
The rally attracted Brandy Garcia, 42, of Olympia, who said she learned about the gathering on Thursday and wanted to take part.
Garcia, who used to earn $16.50 per hour as a medical assistant for a local doctor, lost that job and now makes $11.31 per hour as an in-home caregiver.
After the medical assistant job, she went back to school to become certified, but then was unable to find work in the field. She finally was encouraged to “take anything” and landed the job as a caregiver.
“I made the change, I took the pay cut and it was very frustrating,” said Garcia, a single parent with two children.
Washington’s minimum wage is $9.47, the highest state minimum wage in the country, followed by Oregon at $9.25.
Two food-service workers, who are also students at The Evergreen State College, also participated in Thursday’s rally.
Luke Bridges, 20, who works part time at the Iron Rabbit Restaurant & Bar in west Olympia, said he supports the idea of a living wage.
He earns minimum wage as a server at the restaurant. Some nights he can make $100 in tips, but other nights it might be $10, he said.
Liz Atkins-Pattenson, 23, works as a server at Olive Garden, also on the city’s west side. A higher minimum wage makes sense because a higher wage means more money to spend locally. “It makes sense for the community,” she said.
During the rally, several carried a large banner with the Olympia beer logo on it. Underneath that it said, “It’s the wages.”
No elected officials participated in the rally, but last summer Olympia City Councilman Jim Cooper wanted to start the discussion about a higher minimum wage.
The current minimum wages falls short of what Olympia considers a living wage for single adults, which is $13.64 an hour, according to the city’s comprehensive plan. Cooper said that gap is worth exploring as Olympia tries to improve its economic health. It wasn’t clear Thursday where that discussion stands.