Nearly 1,000 fast-food workers, Wal-Mart employees and union members in Los Angeles joined nationwide protests Wednesday calling for a $15 minimum wage.
Protesters chanted "We want 15" or "Sí se puede" (Yes we can) to the beat of drums and the music of a full band that played on a truck parked outside the McDonald's. Many protesters wore brightly colored union T-shirts, and three huge balloons with "$15" or "#fightfor15" drifted above the crowd.
The Los Angeles protest was one of dozens of "Fight For 15" rallies across the country Wednesday. The demonstrations began in 2012 when several hundred New York fast-food workers went on strike shortly after Thanksgiving, according to the group's website.
Monique Velasquez, 39, brought three of her six children to the protest. She said she was just laid off from her part-time job at a Pico Rivera Wal-Mart store. But even before that, her pay was not enough.
"I have to get assistance, I have to get food stamps," she said. "It's just hard. If they were to raise to $15 and give me full-time, I'd be able to support my family."
USC students and faculty joined in the protest and led the march on campus around 1 p.m.
Wednesday's protest also follows demonstrations against low wages earlier this month at McDonald's locations. Protesters criticized the company's pay increase plan for workers at company-owned stores but not franchisee-owned restaurants.
The minimum wage in California is $9 an hour. In 2016, it will be raised to $10 an hour.
Brenda Smith, 54, a home care worker who lives in Los Angeles, said two of her eight children are going to college this year, and she's worried about finances.
"I work two jobs, and that's not enough," she said. "We need this now."
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