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US workers protest for $15 per hour minimum wage

Washington, April 16
Thousands of fast-food workers joined other professionals at protests in many US cities to demand a minimum hourly wage of $15.

The Fight for 15 movement organised strikes and protests on Wednesday in New York, Miami, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere, Efe news agency reported.

The federal minimum wage in the US is currently $7.25 per hour.

Some states have legislated higher rates, but even the most generous among them still legislate a rate well under $10.

Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, said in Washington that the protests would advance the case for a minimum $15 per hour.

Protests began early Wednesday in Chicago where fast food workers gathered in front of a McDonald's restaurant in the southern part of the city with placards and a 4.8-metre tall statue called "Dignity".

Students, part-time university professors and school teachers, guards, cleaning staff, airport ramp agents and industrial cleaning company staff joined the protest.

In New York, teaching, child care, housing and airport staff gathered at events throughout the city with support from politicians including New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

US Senator Charles Schumer extended support to the demonstrators on the Fight for 15 webpage.

In Miami, close to 300 people also protested the wage exploitation of illegal immigrant workers at a demonstration organised by the Service Employees International Union.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Los Angeles where organisers said low salaries make many workers at big fast food and retail chains such as Wal-Mart reliant on subsidies just to make ends meet.

Multinational fast food chain McDonald's, one of the main targets of protests, said in a statement that it respected the protests and that it had recently decided to pay its employees $1 an hour more than the minimum wage.

However, the corporation added that 90 percent of its restaurants are franchises and it has no power to commit franchise owners to its decision.

Meanwhile, lobby group for franchisees, the International Franchise Association, called the protests no more than a campaign by trade unions to increase membership numbers and contributions.