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Twin Cities workers join national call for $15-an-hour wage

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Workers and supporters rallied.
Fast food workers and supporters rallied outside a McDonald's in Minneapolis in the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
Jon Collins | MPR News

Updated 2:30 p.m. | Posted 10:25 a.m.

Labor organizers said about 80 Twin Cities fast food workers joined what they are calling a nationwide strike to push for a $15 an hour wage and the right to unionize. 

About 150 workers and supporters rallied early Wednesday outside a McDonald's on Lake Street in Minneapolis. 

Carmela Palacios has worked at a Burger King on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis for a dozen years and makes about $8.50 an hour. She said her paycheck isn't enough to support her two children and husband.

Ricardo Darreos works at the McDonald's and said he joined protests over concerns about workplace safety. 

"Because we're working so fast, we get cuts, we get burns, and we have no first aid kit," Darreos said in Spanish. "When we get burned, managers have said, 'Just put some mustard on it.'" 

The McDonald's franchise's co-owner declined to comment during the protest, but co-owner Connie Williams later sent a statement by email. 

"First aid kits are stocked in our restaurants and must meet standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)," Williams said. "We are constantly monitoring our first aid kits to ensure we have the necessary supplies to meet these standards."

Darreos said he makes $8.30 an hour, and received a 5 cent raise after one year of work. Although McDonald's announced earlier this month that it was raising wages of employees at corporate-owned stores to at least $9 an hour, the raise doesn't affect workers at franchise restaurants, who account for about 90 percent of the company's employees. 

Minneapolis Burger King worker Amanda Merritt said announcements of recent wage increases at companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald's show that the movement has had some impact already. 

"People just want instant gratification right now, you can't get that, everything happens at a slow pace," Merritt said. "The more and more you fight, the more results you're going to get." 

National organizers for "Fight for $15" say strikes and protests are planned on Wednesday in 230 cities across the country.

The "Fight for $15" movement has spread across the country in recent years, although workers in Minneapolis first officially walked off their jobs during another day of action in September. The movement has been financially supported by the Service Employees International Union. Officials in the restaurant industry have said it's an attempt by unions to bolster dwindling membership.

The protests in the Twin Cities have been supported by workers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, who are also asking for wage increases.

Twin Cities "Fight for $15" organizers are planning another march and rally outside a McDonald's in the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis for Wednesday evening.