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Rally outside the Smithsonian museum on Dec. 5, 2013

Local fast food workers joined rallies nationwide today protesting low wages and calling on President Barack Obama to sign an executive order requiring that fair wages be considered when determining which companies the government does business with.

D.C.’s rally, which has been publicized as a strike, took place outside Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, which has a government-contracted McDonald’s located on site.

“McDonald’s enjoys the prestige of being hosted by the federal government,” D.C. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton told the crowd at today’s rally. “You can require that fair wages be a factor in winning the competition for a contract like the one that McDonald’s has won.”

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s said in a statement that the company is  “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,” spokeswoman Lisa McComb wrote in the statement, adding that their restaurants remained open today.

Today’s rally, organized by Good Jobs Nation and occurring in 100 cities throughout the country, comes just days after the D.C. Council approved legislation that would raise the minimum wage in the city to $11.50 by 2016. After 2016, it would be indexed to inflation.

“It’s progress,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)said about the D.C. legislation. “$11 is still probably half of what’s needed.”

During the rally, Ellison vowed to push minimum wage legislation through Congress.

A couple hundred supporters and minimum wage workers, many of whom work at the Smithsonian’s McDonald’s, showed up at the museum around 11 a.m. and marched on Constitution Avenue.

“Every two weeks I get a paycheck. I have to figure out what bills I will pay and what I won’t,” says Melissa Roseboro, 53, who works at the McDonald’s for $8.43 an hour. “We are a busy McDonald’s. They can afford to at least consider giving us a living wage.”

Renee Coleman, 19, worked at the Smithsonian’s McDonald’s for a year at $8.35 an hour. But when the government shutdown and that McDonald’s closed along with the Smithsonian, she found a job at T.J. Maxx, where she makes $9 an hour. Her younger sister, who has a baby on the way, still works at the McDonald’s and says the wages can’t cut it.

“I can’t survive at $8.25, $8.35, or even $9 an hour,” Coleman says. “We need more money.”

Photo by Perry Stein