Fast-Food Workers Arrested At Protests

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Carol Kopp/AOL Jobs A Philadelphia police officer arrests a protester at fast-food workers' rally Sept. 4, 2014

Protesters were arrested at demonstrations in cities across the U.S. on Thursday, as employees stepped up the pressure on America's fast-food giants to raise their wages.

Demonstrations by employees and union supporters were held outside McDonald's and other chain restaurants in as many as 150 cities. An estimated 500 protesters were arrested nationwide, according to organizers.

The workers are seeking an increase to $15 an hour, nearly double their current average salary. Restaurant work is America's lowest-paid job segment.

The action kicked off Thursday morning with the reported arrests of 19 protesters outside a McDonald's in the middle of New York City's Times Square. About 400 demonstrators chanted and waved signs, while customers streamed in and out of a giant McDonald's on West 42nd Street, according to The New York Daily News.

As the day rolled on, demonstrators were arrested in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Little Rock, Las Vegas and San Diego. Ongoing coverage and comments can be followed on Twitter at #fastfoodstrike.

Philadelphia's lunch-hour protest was a civilized affair, with about 200 protesters, union supporters and on-lookers surrounded by police gathering outside a McDonald's restaurant a block from City Hall. A Baptist minister spoke and a folksinger led the crowd in protest songs before police attempted to clear the intersection for traffic. About a dozen protesters invited arrest by refusing to move after a request by a police officer. One officer was overheard telling a protester that he sympathized with his goal, but had to do his job.

The National Council of Chain Restaurants, an industry trade group, dismissed today's protests as "choreographed activity" stage-managed by unions. "While it is common for labor unions to stage events in order to grab media attention, encouraging activities that put both restaurant workers and their customers in danger of physical harm is not only irresponsible, it's disturbing," said a statement from Rob Green, executive director. "Unions are calling it 'civil disobedience' when in reality, this choreographed activity is trespassing and it's illegal."

Hoping to turn the heat up on more low-wage employers, the movement's organizers added another service industry to the mix: Home care workers were invited to join Thursday's protests.

St. Louis is one big city that was spared protests, in light of the recent turmoil in nearby Ferguson that followed the shooting death of a young man by a police officer. Workers from St. Louis outlets reportedly traveled to events in nearby cities.

Thursday's demonstrations were the latest round in a series of protests that began almost two years ago, coinciding with a national debate over the federal minimum wage, currently set at $7.25 an hour.

The group, which has been funded by the Service Employees International Union, was buoyed by a Labor Day weekend shout-out from President Barack Obama. In a speech in Milwaukee, the president noted, "All across the country right now there's a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity."
Carol Kopp/AOL Pastor Larry Patrick leads a prayer at Philadelphia fast-food workers' rally on Sept. 4, 2014.

In his speech, the president repeated his call for an increase in the federal minimum wage. "There's no denying a simple truth: America deserves a raise," he said. "If you work full-time, you shouldn't be living in poverty."

Vice President Joe Biden delivered a similar message at a Labor Day event in Detroit. "The American people have not walked away from what they believe they are entitled to. Just give them a chance. No handout, just give them a chance," Biden said in his speech to a union crowd.

The movement also got a shot in the arm from the National Labor Relations Board, which recently ruled that McDonald's Corp. shares responsibility for the workers who wear its uniform. Restaurant workers are employed by franchisees, not by the parent corporation. But the board ruled that both bear legal responsibility for working conditions.

An increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour has been sought by Democrats but stalled in Congress due to Republican opposition. In the absence of federal action, many state and municipal governments have moved to raise their local wages, to as high as $15 per hour in Seattle.

Opponents of a hike in the minimum wage warn that it would be a job-killer. However, a recent study indicates that 12 of the 13 states that have raised their minimum wages have recorded job growth.

Home care workers, who assist house-bound elderly and disabled clients, make a median wage of $10.10 an hour, with some paid as little as $8.03 hourly, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median pay for fast food workers is currently $8.74 per hour.

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Fast food worker protests across the world
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Fast-Food Workers Arrested At Protests
In this Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015 photo, a demonstrator dressed as Ronald McDonald protests for better wages and working conditions for the fast food chain's employees in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The protest gathered McDonald's workers, union representatives from 20 countries, and members of the Restaurant Workers Union. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10: Laura Rollins joins with others to protest in front of a McDonald's restaurant in support of a $15 an hour minimum wage on September 10, 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles are among cities that have adopted a $15 an hour minimum wages. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
McDonald's world's largest fast food chain workers protest in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 18, 2015 demanding to the company to comply with Brazil's labour legislation. The banner reads (top to bottom) #Without Rights It Isn't Legal/Good', 'Menu of Scandals', '1-Big Disrespect 2-Mc Humiliation 3-Mc Slavery 4-Mc Shame 5-Mc Scandal' and ' I Hate All That A lot! Brazil'. AFP PHOTO / Miguel SCHINCARIOL (Photo credit should read Miguel Schincariol/AFP/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 22: Fast food workers and community activists protest outside a McDonald's restaurant in the Loop on June 22, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The protestors were calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $15-dollars-per-hour. The demonstration was staged to coincide with the 4th hearing of the Wage Board in New York City as it debates the $15-dollar-per-hour increase for its workers. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators march past a McDonald's Corp. restaurant during a rally in Oak Brook, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Labor activists seeking $15-an-hour wages marched on McDonald's headquarters on Wednesday, marking the second straight year of protests ahead of the fast-food chain's annual meeting. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Home health care workers and other protesters hold signs at a rally in support of minimum wage increase in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Fast-food workers held rallies in 236 U.S. cities Wednesday in their biggest protest yet for higher pay and union rights. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Signs lay in the street before the start of a rally in support of minimum wage increase in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Fast-food workers held rallies in 236 U.S. cities Wednesday in their biggest protest yet for higher pay and union rights. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Demonstrators gather in front of a McDonald's restaurant to call for an increase in minimum wage on April 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The demonstration was one of many held nationwide to draw attention to the cause. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
People gather near Columbus Circle during a protest as participants, fast food workers and union members, call for a $15 minimum wage in New York, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Police handcuff protesters blocking traffic on Mack Avenue in Detroit as part of a national protest to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Hundreds of workers from McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's and other fast-food chains are expected to walk off their jobs Thursday, according to labor organizers of the latest national protest to push the companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Police officers arrest a protester in front of a McDonald's restaurant in New York's Times Square, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. The protesters are seeking to get unionized and have pay increases to $15 per hour. Thursday's demonstration is part of a day of planned protests in 150 cities across the country by workers from fast-food chains. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Chicago police remove protesters from the middle of 87th street between a McDonald’s and a Burger King on Chicago's south side as labor organizers escalate their campaign to unionize the industry's workers, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Police detained several protesters in cities nationwide Thursday as they blocked traffic in the latest attempt to escalate their efforts to get McDonald's, Burger King and other fast-food companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Protesters march in front of a McDonald's restaurant in New York's Times Square, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Police handcuffed several protesters in New York and Detroit on Thursday as they blocked traffic in the latest attempt to escalate their efforts to get McDonald's, Burger King and other fast-food companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Protesters march on a McDonald's restaurant in Detroit as part of a national protest to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Hundreds of workers from McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's and other fast-food chains are expected to walk off their jobs Thursday, according to labor organizers of the latest national protest to push the companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Police handcuff protesters blocking traffic on Mack Avenue in Detroit as part of a national protest to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Hundreds of workers from McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's and other fast-food chains are expected to walk off their jobs Thursday, according to labor organizers of the latest national protest to push the companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Protesters picket in front of a McDonald's restaurant on 42nd Street in New York's Times Square as police officers move in to begin making arrests, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. The protesters are seeking to get pay increases to $15 per hour. Thursday's demonstration is part of a day of planned protests in 150 cities across the country by workers from fast-food chains. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Protesters block traffic on Mack Avenue in Detroit as part of a national protest to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Hundreds of workers from McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's and other fast-food chains are expected to walk off their jobs Thursday, according to labor organizers of the latest national protest to push the companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Carmalita Johnson drums as protesters participate in a rally outside a McDonald’s on Chicago's south side as labor organizers escalate their campaign to unionize the industry's workers Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Hundreds of workers from McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's and other fast-food chains are expected to walk off their jobs Thursday, according to labor organizers of the latest national protest to push the companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Protesters gather outside a Popeye's restaurant in Kansas City, Mo. on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, as part of the "Fight for $15" campaign, a national protest to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. The movement, which is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others, has gained national attention at a time when the wage gap between the poor and the rich has become a hot political issue. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Las Vegas police officers try to move protestors out of the road Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in Las Vegas. Las Vegas police detained and cited about 10 people during the protests along Las Vegas Boulevard for increased wages at fast food restaurants. (AP Photo/John Locher)
CORRECTS TO SAY SECOND NATIONAL CONVENTION INSTEAD OF FIRST - FILE - In this May 22, 2014 file photo, protesters gather outside of the McDonald's Corporation headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., during the annual shareholders meeting demonstrating for higher wages and the right to unionize. On Friday, July 25, 2014, in Chicago, organizers are holding the second national convention of fast-food workers. They’ll be discussing how to move forward with the protests and other actions calling for higher wages that have been taking place in cities around the country since late 2012.  (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
CORRECTS TO SAY SECOND NATIONAL CONVENTION INSTEAD OF FIRST - FILE - In this May 22, 2014 file photo, protesters gather outside of the McDonald's Corporation headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., the annual shareholders meeting demonstrating for higher wages and the right to unionize. On Friday, July 25, 2014, in Chicago, organizers are holding the second national convention of fast-food workers. They’ll be discussing how to move forward with the protests and other actions calling for higher wages that have been taking place in cities around the country since late 2012.  (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
People rally for an increase in the minimum wage on the Great Western Staircase at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Several hundred fast-food workers and other low-wage employees from around New York gathered to pressure lawmakers to raise the minimum wage from $8 to $10.10 an hour and let local cities raise it even higher. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Emmanuel Dawson protests for higher wages outside a McDonalds restaurant in Detroit Thursday, May 15, 2014. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
FILE - In this Thursday, May 15, 2014, file photo, Velma Cornelius protests for higher wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in Detroit. McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other fast-food restaurants are expected to be targeted with acts of civil disobedience that could lead to arrests Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, as labor organizers escalate their campaign to unionize the industry’s workers. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
An employee looks out from the drive-thru window as Joshua Collins, 24, left, marches by the Burger King restaurant where he works during a protest calling for higher wages and a worker's union, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Jesse Orrock, right, shouts into the intercom while marching through the drive-thru of a Burger King restaurant during a protest by fast food workers and supporters calling for higher wages and a worker's union, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Carmen Burley-Rawls, 20, left, demonstrates with Joshua Collins, 24, right, outside the Burger King restaurant where he works during a protest calling for higher wages and a worker's union, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Joshua Collins, 24, right, demonstrates outside the Burger King restaurant where he works during a protest calling for higher wages and a worker's union, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Joshua Collins, 24, center, demonstrates outside the Burger King restaurant where he works during a protest calling for higher wages and a worker's union, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
James Vesterfelt leaves a Burger King restaurant after taking part in a protest calling for higher wages and a worker's union for fast food employees, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. Vesterfelt doesn't wear modern clothing anymore and hand makes most of his clothes. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Demonstrators protest outside a McDonald's restaurant demanding better wages, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Demonstrators protest for higher wages and worker's unions outside a McDonald's restaurant, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Demonstrators protest outside a Long John Silver's restaurant, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Carmen Burley-Rawls, 20, shouts to passing motorists during a protest outside a Long John Silver's and McDonald's restaurant, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Burger King employee Keisha King, 23, stands during a protest outside a Krispy Kreme store, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents.(AP Photo/David Goldman)
Fast food workers and supporters protest low wages outside a Krispy Kreme store, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Ann Mauney holds a sign for passing motorists as she demonstrates with fast food workers and supporters during a protest outside a Krispy Kreme store, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents.(AP Photo/David Goldman)
Protesters picket for higher wages outside a McDonalds restaurant in Detroit Thursday, May 15, 2014. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
McDonald's employee Connie Ogletree, 55, right, leads a group of fast food workers and supporters in a chant during a protest outside a Krispy Kreme store, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Krispy Kreme employee Beverly Ford, rear, looks on as demonstrators enter the store during a protest, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food chain workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Long John Silver employee Antwon Brown, 31, joins fellow fast food workers and supporters in a protest outside a Krispy Kreme store, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. Calling for $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food workers in Atlanta protested Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the US and 33 additional countries on six continents. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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