UPDATE: Some Madison fast food workers join in Thursday strike - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Some Madison fast food workers join in Thursday strike

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MADISON (WKOW) -- For the second time this year, fast food workers in 100 US cities walked off the job today.

It's part of a national effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and give employees the right to unionize.

The median pay for fast food workers nationwide is a little more than $9/hour, which is amounts to less than $19,000 per year.

About 50 people turned out to protest in front of a Taco Bell on East Washington Avenue in Madison.  Many were fast food and retail workers.

"I make $7.25 and haven't gotten a raise," explained Cassie Rabe, an employee at a Madison Dollar Tree store.

Sean Lane walked off his job at the Taco Bell while 27 News was there.

"These are multi-billion dollar corporations and for them to be paying us $7.25, $8 an hour is frankly inexcusable," said Lane.

State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) agrees.  She has signed on to sponsor a bill that would have Wisconsin's minimum wage be based on fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index.

"This is the first step.  We give them the amount of money they need to make in order to pay their bills and do what they need to do," said Rep. Sargent.

"You cannot arbitrarily increase costs of labor without a corresponding decrease in expenses," countered Bill Smith, Wisconsin Director for the National Federation of Business.  "So where do you go?  You reduce employment opportunities."

Smith believes the chances of a minimum wage increase in Wisconsin are small and says his clients would pay a much bigger price than corporations like Taco Bell.

"Small business, to compete with the big box stores, they have to control expenses.  "They operate on a very narrow margin.  And any kind of arbitrary increase in the cost of doing business is going to have a devastating impact on small business," explained Smith.

But Sargent argues that more money would be available for help to businesses, because government entitlements would be slashed for employees.

"They will not be in a position to be reliant on Quest cards, they will not be reliant on Section 8 housing," said Rep. Sargent.

The reality is that a change to the state minimum wage law is unlikely.  Sen. Glenn Grothman chairs the Judiciary and Labor Committee that would hear the bill.  He told 27 News Thursday that he has no plans to let it pass.

There is some hope from supporters that could change in future years and still some belief President Obama can do something to affect a change at the federal level.

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MADISON (WKOW) – Fast food workers in Madison joined others across the country on Thursday to protest their wages.

There's a push for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, as well as the right to form a union without retaliation.

The protests by low-wage fast food workers started a year ago in New York City.  Madison workers joined a national strike back in August.

The median wage for fast food workers in Madison is $8.83 per hour.

Opponents of the strike say making employers pay higher wages could lead to those employers to cut back their workforce.

Greg Neumann will have more on today's protest, as well as a smaller push to raise Wisconsin's minimum wage, tonight in 27 News at 5 and 6. 

 

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