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Minimum Wage Workers Picket For Better Pay

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Fast food workers and others who make minimum wage protest outside the McDonald's in the Ukrainian Village, demanding a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage. (Credit: Bernie Tafoya)

Fast food workers and others who make minimum wage protest outside the McDonald’s in the Ukrainian Village, demanding a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage. (Credit: Bernie Tafoya)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Several protests have been scheduled for Thursday in Chicago, as part of a nationwide demonstration in favor of a higher federal minimum wage.

WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports one of the protests was held in the Ukrainian Village, at the McDonald’s at Damen and Chicago, where at least 100 demonstrators picketed for two hours. One person in the crowd wore an eight-foot Grinch costume.

Fast food employees and other minimum wage workers contend the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour, because it’s no longer just teenagers who work such jobs; many times it’s adults who have families to support.

Demonstrator Krista Reese said she has two bachelor’s degrees, but works a retail job, because she can’t find a job in her field. She makes more than minimum wage, earning $12 an hour, but said she supports the push to make the federal minimum wage $15 per hour.

According to U.S. Labor Department statistics, the federal minimum wage hasn’t gone up since 2010, when it was raised to $7.25 an hour.

“Everything else has gone up – the cost of living, transportation costs, our groceries, our bills – except for our wages,” Reese said.

While none at the Ukrainian Village protest admitted to going on strike from work to join the demonstration, some said they enjoy their work – they just find it difficult to buy groceries, pay rent, and live in a decent neighborhood on their current wages.

President Barack Obama, Gov. Pat Quinn, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel all have expressed support for a $10 per hour minimum wage, but protesters said they insist on a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

The restaurant industry has said people get good work experience for future higher-paying jobs when they work at entry-level jobs at fast food joints, but at least one McDonald’s worker said most employees are grown adults trying to support a family.

One Dunkin’ Donuts worker said he thinks it’s wrong that people with three or four kids are only making minimum wage, and – for them – splurging is simply buying their kids new clothes or shoes.

In an email, McDonald’s spokeswoman Heather Oldani said:

“McDonald’s and our owner-operators are committed to providing our employees with opportunities to succeed. We offer employees advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits. And we invest in training and professional development that helps them learn practical and transferable business skills.

“We also respect the right to voice an opinion. To right-size the headlines, however, the events taking place are not strikes. Outside groups are traveling to McDonald’s and other outlets to stage rallies. Our restaurants remain open today- and every day- thanks to our dedicated employees serving our customers.”

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