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NATIONAL REPORT — Thousands of low-paid workers and their supporters marched in protests on Thursday that called for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, with some walking off their jobs, USA Today reported. Employees of dollar and convenience stores, home health care aides and certain airport workers joined the protests, which occurred in 190 cities in 35 states.
The "Fight for $15" campaign held its first protests in cities such as Jackson, Miss.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Buffalo, N.Y., and approximately 650 federal contract workers walked off fast-food jobs at major landmarks. Events were also planned at airports in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, Oakland, Calif., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Seattle and Atlanta.
The "living wage" campaign protests began two years ago with worker walkoffs at New York McDonald's and Burger King restaurants.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and a bill to raise it to $10.10 by late 2016 is currently stalled in Congress.
This week's protests were organized by the Service Employees International Union, which has 1.9 million members, with the help of other unions, political groups, university workers, students and ministers, according to the USA Today report.
"We hope this thing blows up to be an awesome, positive move. We want to help families that are hurting, and we want Americans to see that this is already working in a number of places, so why not across the board?" said Rev. W.J. Rideout III, pastor of the non-denominational All God's People Church in Detroit.
Despite the lack of progress on the federal minimum wage bill, 29 states will have a higher minimum wage than the federal standard by Jan. 1.
McDonald's released a statement on its corporate website saying, "We respect everyone's right to peacefully protest," but adding that the minimum-wage debate "goes well beyond McDonald's — it affects our country's entire workforce."
The fast-food giant believes minimum wage increases should be implemented over time to reduce impact on small- and medium-size businesses. Ninety percent of its U.S. restaurants are owned and operated by franchisees that set wages according to job level and local federal laws, McDonald's noted.