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Advocates for fast-food workers rally for $15 minimum wage

Chris Caya/WBFO News

Fast-food workers rallied in several cities across New York, including Buffalo, Wednesday morning. The events coincided with state Wage Board hearings on increasing the minimum wage. SEIU 1199 Executive Vice President George Kennedy was among the dozens of people who gathered outside the state labor office on downtown Main Street. Kennedy says the people who vote against raising the minimum wage are the same people who say welfare is too expensive. 

"They don't recognize that what they're doing is corporate welfare. McDonalds made $5 billion last year. The average wage rate for a CEO in fast food is almost $24 million," said Kennedy.

Kennedy says New York taxpayers spend $700 million a year on public assistance for fast-food workers. Fast-food workers and their allies, including local lawmakers, the Coalition for Economic Justice and clergy members, are pushing for a $15-an-hour wage for cooks and cashiers.

"We're here today because these workers say, 'I have to leave something better for my children, something better than poverty,'" said Coalition for Economic Justice Executive Director Rev. Kirk Laubenstein.

In a written statement issued before the hearings, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said when 60 percent of fast food workers have at least one family member on public assistance, it's clear that the minimum wage is not working.