50 Protesters Detained in Minimum Wage Rallies

Demonstrations on the South Side of Chicago and in Cicero result in arrests

Protests on Chicago's South Side and in Cicero resulted in 50 arrests Thursday.

Nineteen protesters were detained and cited Thursday morning after blocking an intersection at West 87th and South State streets in a continued fight for an increased minimum wage.

The assembly was among about 150 such protests planned around the nation. The fast food industry workers and their supporters want the ability to form a union and a minimum hourly pay of $15 per hour.

"We're definitely on the upward movement because we feel justice is on our side. They keep saying, 'Wait.' We can't wait. ComEd raised their rates three months ago. Food prices are constantly going up, and so we feel that we cannot wait. We're struggling to put food on the tables for our kids," said Douglas Hunter. "We work at a McDonald's at a restaurant where we can't even afford to eat the food that we sell, and we think this is ridiculous in a country as rich as America."

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Protesters began gathering early Thursday morning with an official event kicking off at about 8:30 a.m. It started peacefully but some then blocked the roadway and ignored officers' calls to disperse. Some were seen being placed into squad cars.

Around 300 protesters held another rally later in the day in Cicero at 29th and Cicero Avenue.

Cicero Police say 31 people were arrested and charged for disrupting traffic and placing themselves in harm's way. The protesters reportedly sat in the center of the road and blocked traffic.

A city-issued news release said Cicero Town President Larry Dominick and other local leaders support the state's efforts to raise the minimum wage and offered to work with the demonstrators to find a safter place to protest, but organizers refused.

The "Fight for 15" campaign has the support of The Service Employees International Union and several politicians, including Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who planned on join a protest outside a McDonald's restaurant near West 29th Street and South Cicero Avenue after midday.

In a statement, McDonald's corporate spokeswoman Lisa McComb said the company supports paying "fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace," adding that any increase needs to be considered in a broad context that considers "the impact of the Affordable Care Act and its definition of "full time" employment, as well as the treatment, from a tax perspective, of investments made by businesses owners."

"It's important to know approximately 90 percent of our U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who set wages according to job level and local and federal laws," McComb said. "McDonald's does not determine wages set by our more than 3,000 U.S. franchisees."

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for city contractors and subcontractors to $13/hour.

Gov. Pat Quinn supports raising the state's minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to at least $10 per hour. He vowed to live this week on minimum wage, telling reporters he's eating graham crackers for dinner.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier this year to raise the wage for federal contractors.

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