Nightly News   |  June 14, 2013

Fast-food workers demand better pay

Many older workers in the fast-food industry are struggling to put food on their tables at home, and say they can’t afford to live on minimum wage. According to the Census Bureau, fast-food workers make a median annual salary of about $18,000 a year, assuming they can get full-time hours. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

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>> fast food workers going on strike to demand better wages as the economy slowly recovers, many new jobs are concentrated in low-wage areas like fast food restaurants . a report on poverty in america, and tonight's in plain sight report, you might be surprised to learn who some of these folks are and what it takes for them to feed their family. our report from kevin tibbles in chicago. serve it up with a smile

>> reporter: for many, this is the face of the fast food industry. happy young kids flipping burgers after school. but these days, that person taking your order for minimum wage is much more likely to be older.

>> we can't afford to live on what we make.

>> reporter: people like 56-year-old interior designer , amy crawford , who now works behind the counter for $8.75 an hour.

>> i would have described myself very comfortable middle class .

>> reporter: and now?

>> now i'm getting by.

>> reporter: crawford says she's been seeking a job in her field for over a year, dipping into retirement savings to pay the rent and relying on food stamps .

>> these folks use food stamps at 2.5 times the rate of the rest of the u.s. workforce.

>> reporter: according to census bureau , fast food workers make a median annual salary of $18,000, and that's if they can get full-time hours.

>> $8,56.

>> reporter: that's how much he makes per hour, and he is doubly constrained, because he is limited on the number of hours he can work.

>> i would like to do computers, telemarketing, you name it.

>> encouraging everybody to fight.

>> reporter: johnson and crawford are part of a growing national movement demanding better wages and working conditions. protests by fast food workers in seven cities. in a statement, the national restaurant association says the restaurant industry provides 13 million jobs and one of the most consistent job producers during a difficult and sluggish economy. adding the industry is one of the best paths to achieving the american dream . amy crawford says she never thought about the struggles fast food workers face until she became one.

>> we don't know who that person is, because most of us live our lives unaware that we're unaware.

>> reporter: unaware that worker may be struggling to put food on his or her own table. kevin tibbles, nbc news, chicago.