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Protesters of minimum wage target downtown McDonald's

About 20 protesters calling for a higher minimum wage marched into McDonald's on East Baltimore Street during Wednesday's lunch rush, performed a parody skit with "Ronald McDonald," handed fliers to customers and chanted "raise the wage."

During the brief demonstration, workers behind the counter continued filling orders for fries and Big Macs.

The protest, timed to coincide with similar events around the United States, marked the fourth anniversary of the last federal increase in the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, the rate in Maryland and 29 other states.

One protester held up a sign that read, "McWages I'm Not Lovin it."

"We want to spread awareness that $7.25 is not enough to get paid," said John P. Comer, campaign director for Communities United, one of the groups behind the protest. "There are many corporations making millions and billions a year, but they pay their employees very low living wages. With the cost of living in Maryland, no one can afford to live on $7.25 an hour."

But McDonald's called its wages competitive and said the company offers a range of benefits, training and management opportunities.

"Both our company and franchised-owned restaurants work hard every day to treat McDonald's employees with dignity and respect," the company said in a statement.

As labor protests took place in 30 cities Wednesday targeting various corporations, among them McDonald's and Walmart, the Employment Policies Institute countered with stories of small-business owners and their employees who said they were forced to cut back after previous increases in the minimum wage.

"Minimum wage hikes kill jobs," said Michael Saltsman, EPI research director, in a statement. "Legislators paying attention to today's rallies should focus on lowering barriers to employment, rather than raising them."

During the Baltimore rally, Molly Porter of Good Jobs Better Baltimore, dressed as Ronald McDonald, performed in a skit that parodied McDonald's Monopoly Sweepstakes. Porter's Ronald McDonald was selected as the winner of $13.8 million, an amount representing the 2012 compensation of McDonald's CEO.

The groups behind the protest, also including Raise Maryland, United Workers and Maryland Working Families, said they targeted McDonald's because the chain recently released a "Practical Money Skills Budget" for employees that suggested getting a second job.

Matthew Hanson of Working Families and an organizer with Raise Maryland, said many minimum-wage workers are "young women of color who are mothers, with the system stacked against them. We think it's unfair and insensitive that McDonald's can suggest getting a second job."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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