Knox fast food workers, owners divided on minimum wage issue

Knoxville fast food workers, owners divided on minimum wage issue

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"You're working for pennies to provide for your family. The companies are succeeding, and I'm still struggling to take care of my family," Markell Ash said. "You're working for pennies to provide for your family. The companies are succeeding, and I'm still struggling to take care of my family," Markell Ash said.
"Those positions aren't meant to be full-time jobs, 40 hours a week, supporting families," McDonald's franchise owner Joe Burger said. "Those positions aren't meant to be full-time jobs, 40 hours a week, supporting families," McDonald's franchise owner Joe Burger said.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

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

Advocacy groups planned a similar protest against low wages for fast food workers in front of the Cumberland Avenue McDonalds Thursday.

Although nobody showed up, many are concerned about their paycheck.

Knoxville resident Markell Ash makes around $8 an hour as a crew leader at a Knoxville fast-food restaurant. Ash recently got a 40 cent raise after making minimum wage, but says it's still not enough.  

"You're working for pennies to provide for your family. The companies are succeeding, and I'm still struggling to take care of my family," Ash said.  

Nationwide advocacy groups are demanding higher wages for fast-food workers, one group petitioned for workers at McDonalds to earn $15 an hour.  

Joe Burger is a local McDonalds franchise owner overseeing three McDonalds restaurants including the Cumberland Avenue location.  

Burger says the idea of $15 an hour is not the right approach because he says any mandatory wage increase takes away flexibility from local restaurant owners.

"It has to be addressed at the national level, across the board, not just fast food industry, not just McDonalds," Burger said.  

Burger says many of his workers make above minimum wage, but some make Tennessee's minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour, the same as the federal rate.  

"Those positions aren't meant to be full-time jobs, 40 hours a week, supporting families," Burger said.  

Recently, other states like New Jersey and cities like Washington, D.C. have raised their minimum wages.  

President Obama has supported a measure to push the minimum wage past $10 an hour in 2014, but some say it won't pass because it could threaten jobs.  

"It would be a really hardship for small businesses. It would probably cost workers their jobs, so it becomes an important trade-off between how fair we want to treat workers and the consequences for business and employment opportunities," said Matt Murray, director of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.  

The University of Tennessee recently announced it would raise the minimum wage for its workers from $8.50 an hour currently to $9 an hour in January and $9.50 an hour in June.  

According to Tennessee state law, individual cities in the state do not have the authority to raise minimum wages for workers

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