CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 50 people gathered outside McDonald's on Washington Street, near the state Capitol, at noon on Thursday to protest low wages paid to fast-food workers.
It was part of a national day of protest in 100 cities nationwide led by the Service Employees International Union.
Brooke Drake, events coordinator for the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said current fast-food workers were scared to join the protest.
"I spoke to them. They are afraid to come out. They can't be seen. They are afraid they will be fired immediately," said Drake, who previously worked as a waitress. "But they are here in spirit."
Chanting "Hey Ho. Poverty Wages Have Got To Go," many people at the rally held up signs, reading: "Raise Pay to a Livable Wage"; "McPoverty -- I'm Hating It"; "Raise Their Pay - I'm Loving It".
Thursday's rally was organized by West Virginians United, a newly formed coalition including members from labor unions, women's organizations, social workers, public interest groups and the West Virginia Council of Churches.
Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers in West Virginia, said, "We are out here supporting an increase in the minimum wage for workers. Across the country, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We have to do something to help the working class survive."
Sam Hickman, executive director of West Virginia's chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, held up a graphic showing the relations between education and earning the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Nationally, 28 percent never graduated from high school, 31 percent have high school diplomas and 34 have some college courses or a two-year associate's degree. Only 7 percent have bachelor's degrees.
Rick Wilson, director of the American Friends Service Committee WV Economic Justice Project, said, "There will be a push in the state Legislature next year to get a higher minimum wage."
Emily Myers Duke, a senior communications specialist with Moroch, a Parkersburg-based firm representing McDonald's, was at Thursday's rally. She said local managers at McDonald's would not comment.