KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Wednesday morning, around 50 people met at the Kansas City Health Department to argue that fast food workers deserve a pay increase.
A panel of economists, fast food employees and community faith leaders explained to the crowd that they believe low wages are costing all of us more money.
The group presented a study released this week by the University of California-Berkley, which concluded taxpayers pay $150 million in federal assistance to fast food workers in Missouri alone.
Across the country, that amount is closer to $7 billion a year in food stamps, Medicaid and tax breaks.
In the past several months, fast food workers all around the country, including Kansas City, have rallied for higher wages. In Missouri, the workers are rallying to make $15 an hour and be unionized.
At Wednesday's public hearing, several fast food workers spoke to the crowd about how long and how hard they've been working to feed their children and how that's impossible without public assistance.
"It's a little embarrassing to rely on public assistance and you don't want to rely on those programs, but for me it's necessary, especially with three children," explained Terrance Wise, who works between 50 and 60 hours a week between Burger King and Pizza Hut.
Wise added while there are a lot of critics, fast food workers request shouldn't be considered unreasonable.
"This is for the betterment of the entire community. Starting at the bottom will only help everyone in the middle and the top. Building power in our industry will only strengthen all industries," he said.
Fast food employees plan to host more nationwide rallies in the near future.
Critics say $15 is far too high for fast food jobs, considering some college graduates don't make that high of a salary.