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December 05. 2013 12:55AM

Minimum wage rally at South Willow McDonald's

MANCHESTER — Supporters of a higher minimum wage plan to rally outside the McDonald's on South Willow Street today as part of a nationwide campaign to increase pay for fast-food workers.

The AFL-CIO of New Hampshire organized the local event, which is scheduled to go from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the McDonald's near the intersection of Beech and South Willow streets.Mark MacKenzie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO chapter, said the South Willow location was selected because of its location and the rally was not directed at that particular McDonald's.

Franchise owner Ron Evans said Wednesday he was not aware his restaurant was to be the New Hampshire site and directed questions about the rally to a corporate spokeswoman.

"McDonald's and our owner-operators are committed to providing our employees with opportunities to succeed," said Lisa McComb, spokeswoman for McDonald's USA. "We offer employees advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits. And we invest in training and professional development that helps them learn practical and transferable business skills."

MacKenzie said the campaign to raise the minimum wage was directed at the fast-food industry as a whole and other employers that labor advocates say do not pay workers enough.

"There's going to be a lot of traffic down there and a lot of people going through that area at that time," MacKenzie said. "We want to make sure that people get the message tomorrow."

MacKenzie said the message is that $7.25 an hour is not a liveable wage. Manchester was one of more than 100 cities nationwide where rallies were planned Thursday, just over a year after about 200 workers in New York City walked away from their fast-food jobs in protest of low wages.

MacKenzie did not know of any local walkouts or area employees from McDonald's or any other fast-food chain that would be part of the rally Thursday. "We're doing it for them," he said. "They're certainly invited. I don't know that they'll join us."

Even if local workers do not join the rally, MacKenzie said New Hampshire was still a relevant location because efforts in the Legislature to raise the state minimum to more than the federal bottom line have failed.

New Hampshire also has a strong connection with the Golden Arches since Manchester natives Richard and Maurice McDonald founded the original business before Ray Kroc bought it and turned it into a worldwide enterprise.

The South Willow location is the site of Manchester's first McDonald's, which opened in 1964.

The building underwent a complete overhaul about a year ago and celebrated its grand re-opening on Jan. 12.

Although he declined to elaborate on the corporate statement Wednesday, Evans proudly back in January spoke of the business opportunities his restaurants provide during an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader before the re-opening.

He described the overhaul as "a significant investment for a small business person," but he would not say how much it cost.

A former McDonald's corporate employee who bought the South Willow franchise in 1987, Evans said the overhaul allowed him to increase the workforce from about 50 to 65, a number he hoped would continue growing.

"Every one of my restaurant managers started as a crew member, so it creates a unique opportunity for us to hire a significant number of new people, many of whom, in times like this, are looking to kick-start a new career," Evans told the Union Leader.



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