Protesters for higher US fast-food worker wages march in New York

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U.S. Fast-Food Workers to Strike in Hundreds of Cities

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- U.S. fast-food workers kicked off a nationwide protest in New York on Tuesday backing higher wages and union rights in a campaign they hope will catch the attention of candidates in the 2016 elections.

A couple hundred protesters marched in downtown Brooklyn, blocking traffic and carrying banners reading "A living wage = quality care" and "On strike for work that sustains families." The protesters stopped to rally outside a McDonald's restaurant.

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Organizers of the Fight for $15 campaign say the protests will be followed by rallies in 500 cities by low-wage workers in such sectors as fast food and home and child care.

The protests and strikes are aimed at gaining candidates' support heading into the 2016 U.S. presidential election for a minimum wage of $15 an hour and union rights, the group said.

Click through to see photos from fast food worker protests:

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U.S. fast food worker protests for $15 minimum wage
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Protesters for higher US fast-food worker wages march in New York
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Low wage workers and supporters protest for a $15 an hour minimum wage on November 10, 2015 in New York, United States. In what organizers are calling a National Day of Action for $15 and hour minimum wage, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to stage protests in front of businesses that are paying some of their workers the minimum wage. Home care workers, employees in retail and fast food restaurants say that the current minimum is not a living wage. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio makes an appearance in support of low wage workers, many in the fast-food industry, as they join with supporters to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour on November 10, 2015 in New York, United States. In what organizers are calling a National Day of Action for $15 and hour minimum wage, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to stage protests in front of businesses that are paying some of their workers the minimum wage. Home care workers, employees in retail and fast food restaurants say that the current minimum is not a living wage. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Low wage workers and supporters protest for a $15 an hour minimum wage on November 10, 2015 in New York, United States. In what organizers are calling a National Day of Action for $15 and hour minimum wage, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to stage protests in front of businesses that are paying some of their workers the minimum wage. Home care workers, employees in retail and fast food restaurants say that the current minimum is not a living wage. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Low wage workers and supporters protest for a $15 an hour minimum wage on November 10, 2015 in New York, United States. In what organizers are calling a National Day of Action for $15 and hour minimum wage, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to stage protests in front of businesses that are paying some of their workers the minimum wage. Home care workers, employees in retail and fast food restaurants say that the current minimum is not a living wage. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Low wage workers and supporters protest for a $15 an hour minimum wage on November 10, 2015 in New York, United States. In what organizers are calling a National Day of Action for $15 and hour minimum wage, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to stage protests in front of businesses that are paying some of their workers the minimum wage. Home care workers, employees in retail and fast food restaurants say that the current minimum is not a living wage. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Low wage workers and supporters protest for a $15 an hour minimum wage on November 10, 2015 in New York, United States. In what organizers are calling a National Day of Action for $15 and hour minimum wage, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to stage protests in front of businesses that are paying some of their workers the minimum wage. Home care workers, employees in retail and fast food restaurants say that the current minimum is not a living wage. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Low wage workers and supporters protest for a $15 an hour minimum wage on November 10, 2015 in New York, United States. In what organizers are calling a National Day of Action for $15 and hour minimum wage, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to stage protests in front of businesses that are paying some of their workers the minimum wage. Home care workers, employees in retail and fast food restaurants say that the current minimum is not a living wage. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10: Laura Pierre joins with others to protest 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)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 22: Marie Gasaway protests with fast food workers and community activists 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)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10: Protesters in support of a $15 an hour minimum wage march together 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)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 22: A woman begs for change as fast food workers and community activists protest outside a McDonald's restaurant in the Loop on June 22, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The demonstrators 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)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 22: Juan Hernandez, 8, protests with his mother, who works for McDonald's, and other fast food workers and community activists 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)
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)
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
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 during a rally near a McDonald's Corp. restaurant and the headquarters 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
A demonstrator holds a sign that reads 'People and Planet over Profit' during a rally near a McDonald's Corp. restaurant and headquarters 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
Demonstrators march during a rally near McDonald's Corp. headquarters 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
Demonstrators march during a rally near McDonald's Corp. headquarters 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
Home health care workers 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
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
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
Protesters hold up a Ronald McDonald puppet 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
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
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)
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)
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)
Fast food workers, healthcare workers and their supporters shout slogans at a rally and march to demand an increase of the minimum wage to 15USD per hour, in Los Angeles on December 4, 2014. The nationwide protest is expected to reach 190 US cities. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Fast food workers, healthcare workers and their supporters shout slogans at a rally and march to demand an increase of the minimum wage to 15USD per hour, in Los Angeles on December 4, 2014. The nationwide protest is expected to reach 190 US cities. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Two women order food as striking fast food workers, home healthcare workers and their supporter shout slogans inside a MCDonalds during a rally and march to demand an increase of the minimum wage to 15USD per hour, in Los Angeles on December 4, 2014. The nationwide protest is expected to reach 190 US cities. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 04: Protesters march through the streets demanding a raise on the minimum wage to $15 per hour on December 4, 2014 in New York, United States. The movement, driven largely by fast food workers, has risen in prominence in the past year; today's protests were also joined by demonstrators angry at the Grand jury verdict to not indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner in July, 2014. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 04: Protesters march through a McDonalds demanding a raise on the minimum wage to $15 per hour on December 4, 2014 in New York, United States. The movement, driven largely by fast food workers, has risen in prominence in the past year; today's protests were also joined by demonstrators angry at the Grand jury verdict to not indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner in July, 2014. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 04: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to low-wage federal contract workers during a protest where the workers demanded presidential action to win an increase to $15 an hour wage December 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. A number of workers were expected to walk off their jobs later in the day as part of the protest. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 04: Low-wage federal contract workers block rush hour traffic on Independence Avenue while demanding presidential action to win an increase to $15 an hour wage December 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. A number of workers were expected to walk off their jobs later in the day as part of the protest. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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"The money I bring home can barely take care of my rent," said protester Alvin Major, 50, a Guyanese native who said he earns about $1,200 a month at a Brooklyn KFC, not enough to cover expenses of his four children and ill wife. "We need a wage that could take care of our basic necessities."

The Fight for $15 campaign began in late 2012 and a major backer is the Service Employees International Union. Last December the group staged similar protests in some 200 cities.

Protesters planned to rally in Milwaukee outside the site of Tuesday's televised debate of Republican presidential candidates. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who backs a $15 federal minimum wage, was to gather with protesters on Capitol Hill, his office said.

Industry lobby groups contend the proposed pay raises would be economically unsustainable and cause them to cut jobs.

The higher wage campaign has won over New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He pushed through a measure in July that would raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers in New York City to $15 by 2018 and statewide by 2021.

At a McDonald's restaurant in Oakland, California, a cashier who identified herself only as Vanessa said she had signed a flyer about the protest but had heard nothing more. protesters were present at the restaurant.

With her manager nearby, Vanessa said she had spent seven or eight years working at minimum wage and was earning more than $10 an hour.

"It would be nice to get $15," she said with a laugh. "We're earning it."

Many U.S. cities and municipalities have set a higher base rate than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

The strikes and protests will include workers from McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, KFC and other restaurants, the campaign's statement said.

The scheduled protests were to take place as McDonald's holds an investor meeting.

A September poll by Quinnipiac University found that 62 percent of New York voters supported raising the minimum wage to $15 over the next few years.

RELATED: See America's Top 10 fast food restaurants

10 PHOTOS
America's Top 10 fast food restaurants
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Protesters for higher US fast-food worker wages march in New York

10. Starbucks

(Photo: Shutterstock)

9. Little Caesars

(Photo: Alamy)

8. Domino's Pizza

(Photo: Elizabeth Hait)

7. Subway 

(Photo: Shutterstock)

6. Dunkin Donuts

(Photo: Shutterstock)

5. Pizza Hut

(Photo: Shutterstock)

4. Papa John's 

(Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Panera Bread

(Photo: JeepersMedia/Flickr)

2. Chipotle

(Photo: Shutterstock)

1. Chick-Fil-A

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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