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Chicago Fast Food Workers Part Of Global Protest

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Nearly 100 fast food workers braved the rainy and chilly conditions Thursday to make a point about their pay, and how they're struggling to survive.

CBS 2's Susanna Song reports the protest outside the McDonald's in River North was part of a global effort to convince fast food chains to increase their workers' pay to at least $15 an hour.

It was the fifth protest and fast food workers' strike of its kind in Chicago, as part of a campaign that has now spread to at least 150 U.S. cities and more than 30 countries on Thursday.

The rain and cold didn't keep protesters from showing up as early as 6:30 a.m., and keeping the rally going for more than 4 ½ hours so far.

The fast food workers were demanding nearly double their current pay of $8.25 per hour, the minimum wage in Illinois. Approximately 100 of them walked around the Rock 'N Roll McDonald's on Clark Street, demanding a $15 an hour minimum wage.

One 25-year-old woman, a single mother of two who works at a McDonald's on the West Side, said she's been on the job four years, and it's been difficult to live off such a low wage.

"Fifteen dollars [an hour] would help me pay my basic bills I have at home. I mean, my two-week paycheck is less than one bill. So how do I even pay all the other bills? Rent and light bills and so," Jessica Davis said. "Fifteen dollars and a union would help me sustain my family, would help me to go back to school. It would help me to get out of poverty that I'm in right now."

The protesters also demanded their right to form a labor union to negotiate their wages and benefits. Many fast food workers are part-time employees with no health benefits, and no set work schedule.

Organizing a union for fast food workers has proven very difficult, as many fast food restaurants are franchises not owned by the company, meaning a union would have to negotiate with several different owners.

Protest organizer Nazly Damasio said, contrary to some public perceptions, many fast food workers are in similar situations, and are not just kids working their first job.

"I think the common stereotype is that these are teenage kids just trying to buy some Nike Jordans, and that's not the case. These are mothers, a lot of them single mothers raising children, families trying to get by, trying to go back to college," Damasio said.

McDonald's issued a written statement Thursday saying the company offers "benefits and competitive pay based on the local marketplace and job level" and provides advancement opportunities for workers.

"It's important to know approximately 80% of our global restaurants are independently owned and operated by small business owners, who are independent employers that comply with  local and federal laws," the statement said in part.

McDonald's said it respects employees' right to express their opinions.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) planned to join the protest late Thursday morning. The rally was scheduled to end at 5:30 p.m.

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