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Fast food, airport workers join Twin Cities fight for $15 minimum wage

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Workers, union members and supporters joined together across the Twin Cities Wednesday to back the fight for $15-an-hour minimum wage.

There were protests at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport and the University of Minnesota, MPR reports, with more than 1,000 people taking part in the event at the U.

Fast food workers were among those taking part in the protests, as they added their voices to the national Fight for 15 movement seeking better pay and benefits in the industry, with CNN reporting demonstrations were held in cities across the United States.

MPR says the protest at the U jammed traffic outside the Dinkytown McDonald's between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., with local group Neighborhoods Organizing for Change among those involved.

The protest at MSP meanwhile comes after Gov. Mark Dayton's recent call for airport chiefs to increase wages above the state minimums, to $10 an hour.

Low-wage workers in Minnesota are set for a pay raise in the next 18 months, with the state's minimum wage set to jump to $9 per hour on Aug. 1, up from $8, and this will rise again next year to $9.50.

But recent announcements on minimum pay from companies include Wal-Mart, TJ Maxx and McDonald's have given hope to campaigners striving for wages that reflect the current lost of living.

The Star Tribune reports falling unemployment levels and rising job vacancies – the latter of which has been particularly noticeable in Minnesota recently – has increased pressure to up wage levels that have stagnated since the financial crisis.

What have major companies said about minimum wages?

Although it has proved a popular target for minimum wage protests, McDonald's recently made moves to improve conditions.

Newsweek reports it will be introducing paid time off and hiking its minimum wage to $1 above the local minimum at its company- (not franchise-) owned restaurants by July 1, predicting that the minimum wage at its restaurants would average at least $10 an hour by the end of 2016.

Wal-Mart announced in February – swiftly followed by TJ Maxx and Marshalls – that it would be raising minimum wages to $9 an hour, with Target now reportedly following suit. Wal-Mart will raise it again in 2016 to $10.

A case for higher wages has been made by the Washington Post, which says many of those working low-wage jobs currently in the country qualify for public assistance programs that pay for food stamps, Medicaid and other forms of support.

In other words, taxpayers are subsidizing people who work full-time because their employers cannot pay a living wage.

Forbes meanwhile says hiking the minimum wage could be a necessary business move for McDonald's, which has seen companies such as Chipotle and Shake Shack eat away at its market share.

The protests at wage levels has hurt the company's image, while failing to raise wages has limited the company's efforts to improve its menu and compete with new entrants to the market, the article argues.

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