Fast-food protesters rally around Arizona, nation

PHOENIX - Workers, labor activists and supporters gathered Thursday at fast-food restaurants around Arizona and New Mexico as part of a national effort calling for higher wages.

About 30 protesters gathered around the lunch hour outside a McDonald's in the heart of Phoenix. There were also a couple dozen who chanted outside a Tucson McDonald's. In New Mexico, protesters braved snow and frigid temperatures as they rallied in Albuquerque and Las Cruces.

Most of the signs read "Raise the Wage" and "Respect Workers." One woman in Tucson held a sign that read: "We like pickles, we like lettuce, but poverty wages do upset us."

Organizers said employees planned to forgo work in 100 cities around the country, while rallies were held in another 100 cities.

Ileana Salinas, a case worker at the AZ Worker Rights Center in Phoenix, said she sees many cases in which employees don't get paid for the work that they do or fast-food workers come in seeking help because they don't make enough money to get by.

The problem, Salinas said, is that low-wage workers end up turning to government assistance programs for help with things like rent and groceries, and taxpayers ultimately foot the bill.

Salinas added that fast-food workers are no longer just young people with their first job.

"We have seen in recent years, because of the recession and other situations, that it's breadwinners, fathers and mothers that are taking these jobs, and it's not enough to sustain a family," she said. "So that's why we are fighting for better wages."

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