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Ohioans Join National Fast-Food Wages Protest

COLUMBUS (Rob Wells) -- Customers at a McDonald's on South High Street got a lot more than just a burger for lunch. They also got an earful about higher wages for workers.

Officials report that the 25,000 people employed at fast-food chains across Central Ohio earn an average of just under $9 an hour.

"Twenty-six percent of the people now working in the fast-food industry are primary care givers of their children," protestor Rev. Mark Diemer said. "To try to raise a family on $15,000 a year is just immoral."

Protest organizers said more than half of those working in fast-food jobs also qualify for government assistance.

"The girl at the window said something about making $7.85 (an hour) for the past year," Diemer said. "She mentioned something to me about getting a raise and I think that they should get one."

McDonald's official response was unapologetic. The chain reported that it offers employees advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits.

"We invest in training and professional development," the statement reads. 

Diemer said this issue goes beyond the golden arches. 

"This isn't just about McDonald's," he said. "It's about any place that relies on minimum wage to pay for employees' hard work."

The protests are part of an effort that began about a year ago and is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, which has spent millions to bankroll local worker groups and organize publicity for the demonstrations. Protesters are calling for pay of $15 an hour, but the figure is seen more as a rallying point than a near-term possibility.

Fast-food workers and labor organizers marched, waved signs and chanted in cities across the country on Thursday in a push for higher wages.

Organizers say employees planned to forgo work in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But by late afternoon, it was unclear what the actual turnout was or how many of the participants were workers. At targeted restaurants, the disruptions seemed minimal or temporary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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