Indiana fast-food workers are continuing their fight to increase the minimum wage.
Several dozen Indianapolis fast-food workers and supporters rallied Thursday for higher wages, better working conditions and the ability to unionize.
They marched in solidarity with workers in 100 other cities across the country.
Organizers say the protests began in December of last year and have increased in frequency and participation.
Nicholas Williams is a cook at a McDonald’s in downtown Indianapolis. He makes $7.35 an hour, which he says makes it impossible for him to meet even his most basic needs.
“McDonald’s makes up to $6.5 billion a year, and they can at least afford to pay their workers,” said Williams. “We got their back but they ain’t got ours.”
Cars honked in support while Williams and other protesters shouted slogans and waved signs asking to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15.
A Berkeley study published in October found 52 percent of front-line fast-food workers in the U.S. receive at least one form of public aid.
That number is slightly smaller in Indiana –45 percent of fast-food workers in the state receive public aid, but that costs the state $131 million per year.
Jobs for Justice organizer Mary Kate Dugan says there’s a lot more at stake than just dollars. She says the health of communities and the country depends on better wages and benefits.
“[Low-paying jobs] take parents away from their children because they have to work two or three jobs to get by,” Dugan says. “They’re not jobs that provide health care, they’re not jobs you can buy a house or a vehicle on, they’re not jobs that you can be civically engaged in because you’re working all the time.”
An email statement by Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association CEO Patrick Tamm says that although they welcome a debate on fair wages, raising wages for fast-food workers will have a negative effect on businesses and the economy.
“We should be focusing on making it easier, not harder, for businesses of all sizes to grow and create jobs at fair wages. The restaurant industry has been a bright spot during the economic recovery, but drastically higher wages in the past have led to higher prices and job losses in the restaurant industry—and that is a consequence our economy cannot afford right now.”
Dugan says Jobs for Justice will continue to organize for higher wages and worker’s rights.
“Wages are stagnant and I think people realize it’s not going to get better unless we stand up for ourselves.”