Workers fight for higher minimum wage

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by Tanya Mendis

Bio | Email | Follow: @tanyamendis

azfamily.com

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 7:19 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 7 at 11:17 AM

Phoenix -- Dozens of fast food employees took to the streets of Phoenix Monday to protest their employer, Burger King. They say working for minimum wage robs them of living a normal life.

The workers want nearly double what they're making now. Minimum wage in Arizona is $7.90. They want $15. Sounds like a tall order..But they say they can't live on what they make now.

The familiar chant of "Si, se puede!" echoed through the streets of South Phoenix Monday the workers and activists demonstrated for higher minimum wage.

The groups claim fast food giant Burger King is making billions on the backs of employees who can barely afford to make ends meet.

"Here in Arizona it takes [a person making minimum wage] an average of 85 hours per week just to afford basic housing," says Tomas Robles, executive director of LUCHA, Living United for Change in Arizona. "We're not talking about luxuries, we're talking about a roof over your head, food on your table and clothes on your back."

The workers believe minimum wage should be raised from $7.90 an hour to $15 an hour. "I think it's not enough with $7.90," Jose Samaniego says. "I have to cut some of my expenses just to pay the bills."

Samaniego has worked at a local Burger King for seven months. He says he is willing to risk his job to fight for better pay for himself and his co-workers.

The city of Seattle is considering a proposal that would raise minimum wage to $15 an hour. Los Angeles is considering a minimum wage of just over $15 an hour for hotel workers. Activists here believe Arizona should do the same.

"These workers do more than just push a button or wipe the floors; lot of these end up doing the accounting at the end of the night, end up closing and making sure the workers have performed all their duties," Robles says. "A lot of them have supervisory roles and a lot of them, frankly, have been here many years." Requests for comment from Burger King's corporate offices were not immediately returned.

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