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A contentious Farm Bill heads to U.S. House for debate. Also on our rundown: gaps cited in protections for small-business employees and nonprofit volunteers; plus power out for much of Puerto Rico; and some warning signs, that increased youth activism may not correspond to voter turnout.

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IL Fast-Food Workers Join Global Minimum-Wage Protest

Local fast-food workers are joining in what they call the "biggest-ever day of strikes and protests" to support a minimum-wage increase. (iStockphoto)
Local fast-food workers are joining in what they call the "biggest-ever day of strikes and protests" to support a minimum-wage increase. (iStockphoto)
April 14, 2016

CHICAGO - Thousands of fast-food and other low-wage workers in about 300 cities across the globe, including Chicago, are joining in what they call the "biggest-ever day of strikes and protests" over minimum-wage raises. In Illinois, the Fight for 15 campaign is targeting Oak Brook-based McDonald's, saying the company underpays its workers.

Tanya Watkins, organizer from Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), is allying with the campaign because she believes a $15 an hour minimum wage will help keep some workers out of poverty.

"It decreases the dependency on public services," she said. "The reality is as taxpayers we still have to individually pay to support working people who do not make enough to support themselves because of the companies they work for."

Last year however, McDonald's agreed to raise wages for its workers by $1 above Illinois' minimum wage to $9.25 an hour. Earlier this month, California and New York both approved $15 minimum-wage raises.

Nancy Garcia, a cook at a Chicago McDonald's restaurant, joined in today's strike. She's a single mother of two daughters who said if she was paid $15 an hour, she would be less reliant on public assistance.

"With $15 an hour, we can pay our bills on time, we can get a little more than what we're doing now," she said. "It would be a big help."

According to the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center, U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing the low wages paid by companies such as McDonald's and WalMart. The center said taxpayers spend about $153 billion a year to support public-assistance programs such as food stamps and health coverage, which often are used by full-time workers.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL