(WMC) - Fast food workers protested at several locations for a living wage Thursday. Around noon groups marched up Poplar Avenue to the McDonald's in East Memphis.
Five minutes in, they took their protest to the middle of the street, resulting in nine arrests.
Six of those arrested were from Memphis and three were from out of state (Massachusetts and Missouri). All nine were charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing highway passageway.
It started out peacefully, as the group chanted phrases like "$7.25, we can't survive" and "$15 and a union."
"Because we are trying to survive on $7.25 and want a union," said Angelic Cathey, who works at the Millbranch McDonald's. "We want $15 and a union."
City Councilman Myron Lowery shook his head as protestors blocked traffic on Poplar.
"I agree with the issue and why they're protesting. I disagree with their tactics," he said. "Some of them wanted to be arrested and they were. All they had to do was to get a permit for this protest and it would have been lawful."
For those who didn't get arrested, they marched on.
"They have a good point, they need to be making more than $7.25 an hour," Lowery said.
Lowery says he plans to propose an ordinance that would gradually raise the minimum wage in Memphis. He also says the Memphis Police Department did a good job handling the protestors.
He is happy with the way the majority of the protestors acted and hopes it brings attention to wage issues.
McDonald's released the following statement:
McDonald's restaurants are open for business as usual and welcoming customers. We've had no reports thus far of service disruptions. We reiterate that these are not "strikes" but are staged demonstrations in which people are being transported to fast-food restaurants. And, we have received reports that some participants are being paid, up to $500, to protest and get arrested.
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.