Protest at Lincoln McDonald's draws about 10

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Posted: Friday, December 6, 2013 12:00 am

About 10 people rallied Thursday at lunchtime outside a Lincoln McDonald's in support of a national movement that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25 an hour. Protesters in some U.S. cities such as Seattle and New York gathered outside fast-food restaurants or carried signs.

But there were no reported protests or rallies in the Omaha area. Area restaurant owners said they already pay more than the minimum wage.

The group Low Pay Is Not OK said it organized the protest Thursday at the Lincoln McDonald's at 875 N. 27th St. Onlookers said there were about 10 protesters outside the restaurant at 12:45 p.m.

There were no rallies planned for Omaha, according to lowpayisnotok.org, the group's website.

A manager at the Lincoln McDonald's declined to comment. However, a McDonald's spokeswoman based in Oak Brook, Ill., the company's headquarters, issued the following statement:

“McDonald's and our owner-operators are committed to providing our employees with opportunities to succeed. 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.

“We also respect the right to voice an opinion. To right-size the headlines, however, the events taking place are not strikes. Outside groups are traveling to McDonald's and other outlets to stage rallies.”

Greg Cutchall, president and chief executive of Cutchall Management Co., said Thursday that he hadn't heard of any activities at the fast-food and quick-service restaurants the Omaha company manages.

“If they were happening, I would know,” Cutchall said.

Cutchall Management employs about 1,400 at 53 restaurants in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Utah and Arizona.

In the Omaha area, fast-food employers typically offer more than minimum wage to attract employees, or provide raises fairly quickly to retain good employees, Cutchall said. Nebraska's jobless rate stood at 3.9 percent in October compared with a national unemployment rate of 7.3 percent for workers age 16 and older.

“Our average, dependable employee who has been on the job for six months is probably averaging closer to $9 an hour,” Cutchall said.

Dean Hodges, who owns more than a dozen Jimmy John's restaurant franchises in the Omaha area, said in an email: “We have 23 stores in four states and employ over 700 people now. I have not heard of one person not showing up for work or any squawking about rates of pay.

“But like other businesses we pay part-time rates for part-time workers and raise people quickly if they deserve it. Our starting rates are at $8 currently, 75 cents above the state minimum wage in Nebraska.”

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