Protesters gather, fighting for higher wages - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Protesters gather, fighting for higher wages

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Local organizations are trying to get businesses to pay their workers more. The protest in Chattanooga is part of a nationwide effort to boost the minimum wage from $7.25  to $15.00 an hour.

"Seven twenty-five an hour--you can't make a living off it," exclaims Stephen Mason.

The 24-year-old has been working in the fast food business since high school. He says it's hard finding a higher paying job and has been humbled by living at home where his whole family struggles. He decided to join the group of a couple dozen in front of the Brainerd Road McDonalds, fighting for higher wages.

"It's unfair that some of these people are busting humps just to scrape by in life, and other people are reaping the benefits," says Mason.

Namely the CEOs who some protesters say make 200 times the salary of many service industry workers. Organizer Katie Cowley-Carpenter says it's time to speak up.

"Keeping people in those positions of poverty, it doesn't just hurt those individuals and their families," explains Cowley-Carpenter. "It hurts our entire community and the nation's economy as a whole. So we're seeking to address that."

The jobs that have been regained the past couple years have largely been low-paying ones in fast food and other service industries. Around half of the workers rely on public assistance to supplement their low incomes, placing burdens on tax payers.

Cowley-Carpenter has worked in the fast food industry and feels the need to stand with the workers, many of whom are not teenagers who just need pocket money.

"The average age right now of those kinds of workers is actually 28 to 29. It's not teenagers anymore. And the majority of those people are supporting at least one child," states Cowley-Carpenter.

She goes on to say that higher wages would give these workers more purchasing power, pumping more money into the local economy.

A common argument is that more education is the solution.

"It's very easy to say 'get an education'. An education is expensive," says Jodi Davis. She has two children in school.

She believes the minimum should be raised. Maybe not to $15 pan hour, to a level in line with local cost of living. She also thinks a wage hike is only part of a possible solution.

"I do feel that a lot of us, including myself, can be arrogantly ignorant about the situation," admits Davis.

Some small businesses worry that requiring a raise in minimum wage could force them to close, costing even more jobs.

The groups represented at the gathering were Occupy Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Affiliate of Move to Amend, Chattanooga for Workers, and the Mercy Junction Church.

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