(Adds quote from Chicago restaurant patron, Miami demonstrator)
By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO May 15 U.S. fast-food workers went on
strike on Thursday, aiming to convince thousands of restaurants
they make huge profits from paying them a pittance and that they
deserve a raise.
The one-day strike is the latest in a series of U.S.
protests over the past 18 months that have targeted fast-food
restaurant operators, including McDonald's Corp and
Burger King Worldwide Inc.
They come at a time when U.S. Democrats have been pushing to
raise the federal minimum wage ahead of this year's mid-term
congressional elections, seeing income inequality as a powerful
Fast-food workers are seeking wages of $15 an hour and the
right to unionize without retaliation, union leaders said.
Tammy Castellanos, 35, was among about 200 people who
demonstrated Thursday in a cold rain at the Rock & Roll
McDonald's near downtown Chicago, which is known for its pop
"I have done so much for Burger King and I don't make enough
to pay the rent," said Castellanos, a single mother with five
children ranging in age from 21 months to 18 years old. She said
she makes $10 an hour after a decade working at Burger King.
Wendy Gonzales, 25, said she makes $8.60 an hour after four
years at a McDonald's and lives with her parents in Chicago.
"I am trying to get a raise so I can get my own apartment
and be independent," Gonzales said. "I want to go back to
Marco Mejia, 66, a Chicago retiree who was eating breakfast
at McDonald's, said he supported the workers.
"It's a shame," Mejia said. "The CEOs of these companies are
making millions of dollars and do absolutely nothing, and these
people are working so hard and make the minimum (wage)."
McDonald's, the world's biggest restaurant chain by revenue,
and Burger King have defended their treatment of employees,
saying they pay fair wages.
Strikes were expected to be held in 150 cities, including
Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Miami, where about
50 people gathered in the rain outside of a McDonald's near a
Among the Miami demonstrators was Selmira Wilson, who said
through a translator that it was nearly impossible to care for
her three children with the low wages she earned from
"I have to work two jobs," Wilson said. "I clean offices at
night just to get by."
U.S. President Barack Obama has pushed Congress to raise the
federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from the current $7.25,
a move fought by Republicans in Congress.
Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C. have minimum wages
higher than the federal minimum wage, and 38 states have
considered minimum wage bills during the 2014 session, according
to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The state of
Washington has the highest minimum wage at $9.32 an hour.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Zachary Fagenson
in Miami; Editing by Jon Herskovitz, Steve Orlofsky and Jeffrey