U.S. fast-food workers mark Tax Day demanding higher wages

By Sebastien Malo

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fast-food workers rallied in New York on Wednesday to demand higher pay, using the April 15 deadline for filing U.S. tax returns to publicize their claim that they cannot survive on the hourly wages paid by many U.S. corporations.

The protests demanding pay increases to $15 an hour kicked off at dawn outside a McDonald's Corp restaurant in New York with several hundred demonstrators.

Marching behind a banner reading "Raise wages, Raise the city," protesters carried placards that read "Fight for $15 on 4/15."

Plans called for rallies to be held in 230 cities across the United States. In New York, a march was planned to Times Square during the evening rush hour, organizers said.

Jumal Tarver, 36, said he cooks and cleans at a franchised McDonald's in Manhattan but cannot make ends meet on his pay of $8.75 per hour.

He said he must rely on public assistance on top of his wages.

"It's hard for me to provide for my daughters with $8.75," he said.

Organizers said they chose to mobilize on April 15, the U.S. deadline for filing federal income tax returns, to highlight their complaint that many workers must rely on public assistance.

The campaign for a living wage has been building on low-paid workers' position that the U.S. federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is not enough to lift them from poverty.

Fast-food and retail chains are starting to respond, but their wage increases are generally less than organizers demand.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc this year said it would raise its minimum pay to $9 an hour in April, and $10 in 2016. Target Corp and T.J. Maxx said they would increase pay to $9 an hour.

McDonald's has said it would raise hourly pay at company-owned stores to $9 but this would not necessarily apply to the more than 90 percent of its 14,000 U.S. locations operated by franchisees.

Wages are expected to emerge as an issue in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton this week said it was unfair that many families face financial hardship "when the average CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker makes."

Voicing support for the workers, Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, tweeted: "Everyone who works hard for a living should make enough money to feed his or her kid."

(Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Mohammad Zargham)