Across The Country, Fast-Food Workers Rally For $15-An-Hour Pay : The Salt Union organizers say workers need a liveable wage and that the campaign to win them is gaining momentum, but the industry says higher wages would increase the cost of fast food.
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Across The Country, Fast-Food Workers Rally For $15-An-Hour Pay

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Across The Country, Fast-Food Workers Rally For $15-An-Hour Pay

Across The Country, Fast-Food Workers Rally For $15-An-Hour Pay

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR's Business News starts with a walk off at the drive-through. Fast-food workers in cities across the United States rallied for higher wages during a day of demonstrations yesterday. These protests were part of an ongoing campaign backed by union organizers to push for $15 an hour pay. NPR's Allison Aubrey has more.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: In Chicago, police handcuffed and arrested demonstrators who blocked traffic at a busy intersection that has a McDonald's on one side of the street and a Burger King on the other.

JESSICA DAVIS: We just took over the whole street. It was amazing; it was empowering; it was wonderful.

AUBREY: That's 26-year-old Jessica Davis, a McDonald's employee we reached on a cell phone.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTORS: (Chanting) We shall not be moved.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: You guys, please go on the sidewalk, thank you.

AUBREY: She said she felt people really took notice. And what she wants them to know is this - McDonald's pays her about $9 an hour, which she says is not enough for a single mom raising two kids.

DAVIS: Yes, it's extremely hard. I'm forced to use government assistance to take care of my children.

AUBREY: She relies on food stamps, for instance, to buy her groceries. Labor economist Jack Temple works with the National Employment Law Project, which supports the drive for higher pay. He says Davis' story is common. Despite the idea that flipping burgers is a job for teenagers, he says the majority of fast-food workers today are adults, and a third of them are parents supporting kids. He argues the industry can afford to pay more.

JACK TEMPLE: We know that this is a multibillion-dollar industry. McDonald's profits alone were $5.6 billion last year. There's plenty of revenue in this industry to afford a living wage.

AUBREY: In a statement, McDonald's says any increase in minimum wage should be implemented over time so the impact is manageable. But jumping to $15 an hour, which is double the current minimum wage, Scott DeFife of the National Restaurant Association, says that would be damaging. Restaurants would need to charge higher prices.

SCOTT DEFIFE: A $15 entry-level wage would definitely increase the cost of food probably in the order of 35-40 percent.

AUBREY: Prices, he says, many fast-food customers would not be willing to pay. But union organizers counter fast-food workers must have a living wage. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

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