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Michigan Workers Push For Higher Fast-Food Wages; Protesters Promise To Be Peaceful

HIGHLAND PARK (WWJ) - Supporters of boosting the minimum wage in metro Detroit are making their collective voices heard Thursday morning.

Three dozen workers gathered bright and early at 6 a.m. at the McDonald's restaurant on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park to call on the fast-food giant to raise wages to at least $15 an hour. About an hour later, the size of the crowd had doubled.

As workers circled the drive-thru lane, they chanted "Hold the burgers, hold the fries, make our wages supersize."

Pastor W.J. Rideout III, who helped organize the protest, said they are finally starting to see results from their campaign to bring attention to the plight of low-wage workers.

"We see here in the Detroit metropolitan area, in Dearborn heights Moo Cluck Moo has raised theirs to $15 an hour and then just the other day on East Jefferson and Harding, Rosie's just raised theirs to $12 an hour," Rideout told WWJ's Ron Dewey.

Rideout said fast-food and retail jobs are no longer just for high school or college students. He called the positions "survivor jobs."

"We're living in a time now where everything has gone up significantly and a person can't survive off $8.15 an hour," he said.

Rideout said protesters have no plans to lock arms and block Woodward Avenue -- like what happened in September when dozens were arrested during a similar protest at a Detroit McDonald's. He insisted protesters will remain civil.

Similar "Fight for $15" protests are happening Thursday at other restaurants and businesses in Detroit, Flint and Lansing, as well as around the U.S.

On Wednesday night, a Speedway gas station on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit was forced to close briefly after clerk Fred Green walked off the job to join protesters.

"It felt great. I'm tired of this minimum wage. I've been working in this industry for about 20 years and it's time for a change," Green said. "I'm hoping for at least $15 an hour and the right to a union."

Green said despite not speaking to his employers about walking off the job, he's not worried about his livelihood.

"I don't expect to hear nothing negative because I'm fighting for what's right," he said. "I'm quite sure they would back me up for me believing in what's right."

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