SOUTHFIELD (WWJ/AP) - A local McDonald's restaurant was forced to close Thursday morning after its employees walked out and hundreds gathered outside to protest for higher wages.
The restaurant on 8 Mile and Lahser roads along the Detroit/Southfield city line was just one location locally where fast food workers are participating in a nationwide "walkout for better wages."
Over 200 protestors crowded the restaurant, carrying signs that read "We are worth more. Strike for 15," as in $15 an hour.
Terrance Collins told WWJ's Vickie Thomas he has worked at McDonald's for a few years, and has been struggling ever since.
"I started off making $7.40, they gave me a manager position and raised that to $7.75. When they took my manager position, they dropped me back down to $7.40, and I have two kids to put on top of that that I'm trying to support. And the ends still doesn't meet so no, it's not a comfortable living," he said.
Other employees shared Collins' views.
"It's a very uncomfortable lifestyle working for $7.40 at McDonald's when McDonald's made like $500 billion last year," one protestor said.
"We're out here fighting to raise the minimum wage and get rid of $7.40 because $7.40 an hour is not enough to take care of our kids and our families and we want to, you know, get the raise up to $15," another protestor said.
The protest wasn't limited to just fast-food workers, as local clergy, like Rev. David Bullock, showed up to support the cause as well.
"We can't survive on just $7.25, we need $15 an hour. This is a national campaign to raise the minimum wage. I was so proud of President Barack Obama yesterday when he gave the speech talking about the dream unfulfilled, the second phase of the civil rights movement is economic equality," Bullock said.
The nationwide walkout, taking place at chains such as McDonald's, Taco Bell and Wendy's, is expected be the largest strike by fast-food workers, according to organizers. The biggest effort so far was over the summer when about 2,200 of the nation's millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities.
Workers say they want $15 an hour, which would be about $31,000 a year for full-time employees. That's more than double the federal minimum wage, which many fast food workers make, of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year.
The move comes amid calls from the White House, some members of Congress and economists to hike the federal minimum wage, which was last raised in 2009. But most proposals seek a far more modest increase than the ones workers are asking for, with President Barack Obama wanting to boost it to $9 an hour.
The push has brought considerable media attention to a staple of the fast-food industry - the so-called "McJobs" that are known for their low pay and limited prospects. But the workers taking part in the strikes still represent a tiny fraction of the broader industry.
As it stands, fast-food workers say they can't live on what they're paid.
McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. say that they don't make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate the majority of their U.S. restaurants.
For the restaurants it does own, McDonald's said in a statement that pay starts at minimum wage but the range goes higher, depending on the employee's position and experience level. It said that raising entry-level wages would mean higher overall costs, which could result in higher prices on menus.
"That would potentially have a negative impact on employment and business growth in our restaurants, as well as value for our customers," the company said in a statement.
The Wendy's Co. and Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, did not respond to a request for comment.
The National Restaurant Association says the low wages reflect the fact that most fast-food workers tend to be younger and have little work experience. Scott DeFife, a spokesman for the group, says that doubling wages would hurt job creation, noting that fast-food chains are already facing higher costs for ingredients, as well as new regulations that will require them to pay more in health care costs.
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