Hundreds march in downtown LA as part of nationwide call to raise minimum wage

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Hundreds of low-wage workers marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles Thursday as part of a nationwide protest calling for a $15 minimum wage and a union.

"If I don't make enough and I don't have enough money to pay my bills, the bills are not going to wait for me," fast-food employee Albina Arvon said.

Arvon joined protesters demanding better wages and the right to unionize. She says as it stands she just can't make ends meet.

"We live in L.A. Everything is so expensive, the rent is so expensive. Imagine getting paid for two weeks $500 and paying the rent of $900. That's not enough," Arvon said.

The group gathered near the 300 block of Grand Avenue and marched to a local McDonald's restaurant on Alameda Street.

California and New York this month became the first states to pass laws mandating that a statewide $15 minimum be phased in over the next few years.

Fast-food employees like Arvon say they're glad California passed the law, but they say, along with unionizing, they want the increase to kick in today, not later.

"Can you live on 9 bucks an hour? They can't either. Two people working in a household and they're still on public assistance and still getting food stamps," said Bob Schoonover, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 721.

The group in downtown L.A. is calling for a $15 minimum wage across the country.

"Even though we've been successful in getting something locally and at the state level, the rest of the country still needs $15 an hour and the fast-food workers behind me want $15 an hour now and the union," Schoonover said.

Members of the clergy community joined protesters with a specific message to fast food restaurant chains: "You are corporate giants. You have the income. We all know we're getting the $15 an hour. You can do it tomorrow and you could lift the lives of millions of people out of poverty," Pastor Bridie C. Roberts said.

A McDonald's spokesman says the fast-food chain is investing in the future of their employees.

"In addition to raising the minimum wage for employees at our company-owned restaurants, we also offer employees access to Archways to Opportunity, a set of programs McDonald's pays for which helps them earn a high school diploma and get needed tuition assistance so they can work toward earning a college degree."
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