Los Angeles demonstrators call for $15-an-hour wages for fast-food workers during rally

Demonstrators filled a major street outside a Los Angeles McDonald's restaurant on Wednesday to protest low wages for fast-food workers.

The rally was part of a nationwide series of events calling on McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and similar companies to pay workers at least $15 an hour.

Chanting "Fight for 15," the demonstrators filling Figueroa Street near the University of Southern California included members of unions, college students and clergy.

The organized event included balloons, musicians performing on a flatbed truck and placards stating "$15 will lift the whole community."

Labor organizers have been campaigning for the higher wage for more than two years. Many fast-food workers currently earn close to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

"If you're making minimum wage or below at a full-time job and you have little opportunity for advancement, you should be able to live. They need a living wage," said Duncan Gammy, 20, a USC sophomore and member of the group Students Coalition Against Labor Exploitation.

McDonald's recently said it would raise its starting salary to $1 above the local minimum wage, and give workers the ability to accrue paid time off. The move only applies to workers at company-owned stores, which account for about 10 percent of more than 14,300 locations.

McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's say they don't control the employment decisions at franchised restaurants. In a statement, McDonald's said it respects the right to "peacefully protest" and that its restaurants will remain open Wednesday.

Wendy Fellows, 59, a county worker and union member, said she did minimum-wage work when she was young and sympathizes with fast-food workers because many are not young and are supporting families.

Fellows said she wants to retire and move to Washington state but doesn't have a full pension.

"I'll probably end up working at a McDonald's," she said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed raising the minimum wage in the city from $9 per hour to $13.25 by 2017.


AP Food Industry Writer Candice Choi contributed to this report from New York.