Fast food workers continue to fight for higher minimum wage - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Fast food workers continue to fight for higher minimum wage

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Fast food workers in several big cities including Chicago continue to strike this week. Area workers plan to walk off the job at more than two dozen different chains this week, to fight for better pay.

If they win, the costs would likely be passed on to you, the customer. Critics warn that raising the minimum wage by 82% would likely cause local employers to eliminate tens of thousands of jobs. 

Those involved in the campaign--including the Service Employees International Union--say that's not basic Economics 101, but scare talk.

The workers' message, however, is that they cannot survive on minimum wage: $7.25 an hour. Here in Illinois, living wage is $8.25 an hour.

"We're targeting big corporations, not mom and pop," striking fast food worker Robert Wilson Jr. said. "We want $15 an hour."

No one wants to pay more. Maybe that's why the dollar menu at McDonald's is a success. But a university researcher says McDonald's would have to raise their price on dollar menu items by $0.17 to pay workers up to $15 an hour.

The research came from the University of Kansas, where a researcher determined McDonald's would have to increase the price of a Big Mac by $0.68 to cover a raise in pay.

This drove fast food workers across the country to draw attention to the living wage issue.

Last April, workers protested at Union Station. This week's strike will affect Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell, Burger King and Wendy's and other local fast food restaurants.

In Chicago, organizers expect three times as many workers to walk off the job than the last time.

Spokesmen for McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's did not respond to FOX 32's requests for comment.

One Chicago worker sympathized with those on strike, saying that he would be willing to pay more for food at restaurants like these, provided the money goes to the employees who need it - not to the executives and administrators.

"I would pay more so they could make more," he said.

He said he knows times are hard for these workers, who often work more than one job to make ends meet. He told FOX 32 News that he thinks $7.25 is very hard to live on in this economy.

FOX 32 News' Mike Flannery spoke to another would-be striker.

"I'm not gonna lie to you. I'm scared," McDonald's worker Nancy Salgado says. "Something normal, I'm a human. It's my job. Like I said, it's scary. But I'm not gonna give up."

After making a microwave dinner tonight for her two children, single Mom Nancy Salgado told FOX 32 News why she's nervous. At the start of her scheduled shift Thursday morning at the Logan Square McDonalds, she plans to walk off the job. Her check stubs reveal they pay her $8.25 an hour, the minimum wage. Working about 32 hours a week, she earns about $13,000 a year. Showing us a pile of bills and a utility disconnection notice, she says she and especially her children need more.

"It hurts," she says. "It hurts a lot that you can't provide under minimum wage what you want to provide. My daughter comes to tell me, ‘my friend just got this new Barbie' or, ‘my friend went to see this movie I really wanted to see, Mommy.'"

But some fear that raising the minimum wage would only add to Illinois's worst-in-the-Midwest unemployment rate. Metro Chicago's official jobless rate jumped above 10% last month.

"Chicago area has a higher minimum wage than anywhere around us. It hasn't worked so far," David Vite from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association argues. "In fact, it's pushed up the unemployment rate. So, I think it's a rather spurious argument to say, just artificially setting a wage rate...or the workers who rely on the jobs today."

For her part, Nancy Salgado says the walkout Thursday in Logan Square is likely to be a one-person strike. No other employees have indicated they will join her. The union organizers and community activists she's working with have assured her they will protect her against being fired when she returns to McDonald's on Friday.

The Chicago strike is expected to last two days, impacting more than four fast food companies at downtown locations and in the suburbs.

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