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National Fair Wage Rally Hits Wausau

Natalie Jablonski

Fast-food workers in at least 50 cities rallied Thursday to get higher wages and have the right to organize.

Wausau organizer Melissa Alice Engles-Lewis says minimum wage workers don't have the means to support families on their wages. 

"They're having a hard time paying their bills. They're having a hard time putting groceries on the table. Nobody wants to be on any public assistance, of course, But when you work these jobs you almost have to be(on assistance) because you have no other options..."

Union leader in Rhinelander from Northern Tier Uniserve Director Fred Andrist  went to the Wausau rally. He says  workers are facing tough times.

"Because their issues are universal...the right to organize, the right to have a union. We see that is in jeopardy at the state(level). They don't want unions around for a simple need, they want to increase their profits and decrease their opposition..."

But Pete Hanson from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association says the protests were organized by labor unions and weren't 'organic protests'. He says labor costs typically are 33 percent of the cost of a sale and the workers request would double that cost.

"As you can see, that would be a huge increase in cost for a restaurant. There would be no way for a restaurant operator to manage that increase in costs, other than raising prices, reducing hours or even cutting jobs..."

Hanson says workers with lesser skill sets are likely to be the ones without a job as costs go up. Hanson says there are very few people in the fast food industry trying to raise a family on current wages.

(Thanks for help, WSAU radio)

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