Indy fast food workers arrested during protest for higher wages

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Several McDonald's employees were arrested in Indianapolis on Thursday during a protest for higher wages.

The rally was one of 150 in cities across the country in which McDonald's employees walked off the job as part of the "Fight for $15" campaign. The workers want to make $15 an hour and the right to unionize.

"It's important to us, because we're tired of living in this economy and making poverty wages. We deserve more," said Latisha Allender.

Allender and roughly 50 others, both employees and supporters, stood on the sidewalk in front of a McDonald's on Post Road, holding signs and chanting.

One worker who makes $8.10 per hour told Eyewitness News she was participating in the protest for her kids.

"This means a lot to me because I'm doing this for my kids. Like I said, they deserve better. I don't want my kids on assistance like I am. I feel they deserve better in life and I'm the one to make that change for them," said Andrea Leach.

Leach said she makes $220 per week, with child care costs eating up $135. "I only make enough to pay for child care," she said.

Initially, protesters stayed on the sidewalk is police stood by. About a half-hour into the rally, protesters moved into the street blocking traffic. After Indianapolis Metro Police officers asked them to move several times and they didn't, police began arresting them one by one for obstructing traffic.

At least ten people were arrested peacefully, including nine workers from the restaurant and one supporter. All were issued summonses to appear in court.

The protest was peaceful. There were no issues.

Protesters could face fines of up to $500, but it's more likely that they will be ordered to pay court costs of around $150-200 - the equivalent of a few days' wages. But those who took part say they knew the possible consequences.

"Because it's the only way that it seems they're going to hear us now," Allender said.

The McDonald's remained open, with customers sympathetic, to a point.

"I think they should get it," said one woman.

But asked if she'd be willing to pay more for her lunch, she said, "No, it's too high already."

Tiffany Prudente, a former McDonald's worker said, "raising the minimum wage is a good idea, but $15 is way too much for me."

And critics say it's unrealistic, given the ripple effect it would have throughout the economy by forcing other industries to follow suit.

Cindy Piercon, a nurse, said, "I would say no to $15. I would say get out of bed every day, do a job and work hard. Good things come to good people so I don't think this is the way to get $15 an hour or a union."

Leach said it's not that easy, not for her.

"I don't have transportation. My two feet are my transportation, so this raise means a lot. It's my only source of income now," she said.

Leach was one of the ten arrested during the protest.

"There's a national movement going on made up of fast food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity," President Barack Obama said at a Labor Day appearance earlier this week.. "If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, I'd join a union."

McDonald's issued this statement:

"At McDonald's we respect everyone's rights to peacefully protest. The topic of minimum wage goes well beyond McDonald's - it affects our country's entire workforce. McDonald's and our independent franchisees support paying our valued employees fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace. We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small and medium-sized businesses – like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants – is manageable. Additionally, we believe that any increase needs to be considered in a broad context, one that considers, for example, 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% of our U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who set wages according to job level and local and federal laws. McDonald's does not determine wages set by our more than 3,000 U.S. franchisees."