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Fast-food workers stage protest for higher pay

August 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thousands of fast-food workers staged protests in dozens of cities around the country on Thursday, including Los Angeles.

The demonstrations are all part of a nationwide campaign to get chains to pay workers higher wages, and it's being called the largest such protest to ever hit the fast-food industry.

Fast-food restaurants in more than 50 cities across the U.S. participated in the demonstrations, including a Burger King at the corner of Broadway and Century Boulevard in Los Angeles. Workers there started their demonstration at about 6 a.m., chanting "Make our wages super-sized."

A march also got underway around 11 a.m. It started at the corner of Western Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard and headed northbound on Western Avenue to Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

There have been other such protests on a smaller scale. A seven-city demonstration was organized earlier this summer.

The protest, on a national scale, aims to push for $15 per hour and the right to form a union without retaliation or unfair labor practices.

The current minimum wage in Los Angeles is $8 per hour. For most of the country, that figure is $7.25 per hour, which amounts to about $15,000 per year for a full-time employee. A wage of $15 per hour amounts to about $31,000 per year for a full-time employee.

Fast-food companies say that increasing entry-level wages would mean higher overall costs, which could result in higher prices on menus, less revenue and eventually layoffs.

However, workers say they can't make ends meet on their salaries. Many are turning to federal assistance to compensate.

Tilesha Rice, a Burger King worker, says she is looking for a second job to help her family get by. Rice said she is a single mother with four kids, and she's worried about sending them to college.

According to a study out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a family of one adult and one child needs to make $23 per hour working full time to afford the basics in Los Angeles. But workers say they never get even close to 40 hours per week.

Meantime, fast-food giants are raking in record profits.

McDonald's and Burger King released a statement saying they don't control what its independent franchisees pay. McDonald's said corporate-owned restaurants give raises to workers depending on their position and experience level.

Thursday's demonstrations are not expected to affect customer service, because managers have known about the event for several weeks and have made the necessary schedule changes.

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