Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

Protesters descend on Tampa restaurant firm controlled by Bain Capital

About 175 people organized by employee-rights advocates protested Monday afternoon outside the Bloomin' Brands corporate headquarters on N West Shore Boulevard.

Among their demands: a significant pay boost for workers whose companies are overseen by Bain Capital.

They waved signs proclaiming "Don't let Bain Capital destroy the middle class" and chanted slogans that included, "How many millions do you need? We've got hungry mouths to feed!"

Bloomin' Brands runs Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill and other restaurant chains. It is controlled by Bain Capital, the private equity firm once run by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The protesters included a handful of people who identified themselves as employees of Bain-controlled companies. They included Mike Stuart, 29, of Philadelphia, who said he is an assistant manager at Guitar Center, a musical equipment retailer.

Stuart said he has been working for the chain for five years and is still making the $7.25 an hour minimum wage.

"I'm not looking to be a millionaire, but a couple of extra dollars would help out," he said.

Simeon Uddin also said he was an employee of a Bain-controlled retail outlet, which he would not identify.

"I'm here for a better future for my kids so they don't have to go through the struggles that I do," said Uddin, 30, of Cincinnati.

The minimum wage, he said, needs to be $10 to $12 an hour for anyone who hopes to make a living from it.

Darrin Little, 44, who said he has worked for 10 years as a chef at a Carrabba's in Novi, Mich, near Detroit, said he flew to Tampa to hand-deliver a letter to Bloomin' Brands' chief executive officer. Little said his pay has climbed just $3 to $14 an hour in those 10 years.

The letter asks for equal treatment of rank-and-file employees of the restaurant chain, whose wage increases, Little said, have not kept up with those given to management.

"I was greeted by a bunch of security and police officers and told I couldn't come in the building," he said.

So he called the office. He ended up speaking to a woman who said she couldn't come down to accept the letter.

After protesting for about 30 minutes, the protesters – which included members of the group The 99 Uniting -- boarded four charter buses and departed.

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