WASHINGTON — Fast-food workers and others in low-pay jobs on Thursday launched one-day strikes and protests across the United States demanding a $15 an hour minimum wage and union rights.
Organizers said workers at major chains like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Taco Bell walked off their jobs in more than 190 cities, from Los Angeles and Phoenix to Chicago, New York and Washington.
For the first time since fast-food workers began walkouts two years ago, they were joined by workers from convenience stores and markets in 24 cities, the Fight for $15 campaign said in a statement.
Employees in low-wage jobs and labor unions supporting them are pushing to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15 -- about double the current federal minimum of $7.25.
Workers say they are fed up with pay that does not come close to keeping them out of poverty and the threat of retaliation from employers hostile to them joining or forming unions.
"Every day I look my kids in the face and they realize we live in poverty. They are the reason I fight," Terrence Wise, a 35-year-old father of three who is paid $9.30 an hour at Burger King in Kansas City, Missouri, said in the statement.
At 10 major airports, baggage handlers, skycaps, wheelchair attendants and aircraft cleaners were demonstrating in support of the strikers, the organizers said.
And home-care workers, which launched the Home Care Fight for $15 in September, were protesting in more than two dozen cities from coast to coast, according to the Fight for $15 campaign.
The movement has grown since a few hundred fast-food workers went on strike in late November 2012 to push for a "living wage" of $15 an hour.
A year ago fast-food workers launched daylong labor strikes, and their outcry has increasingly resonated in national politics.
"Fast-food workers deserve a livable wage to keep families out of poverty. When they fight, I'm proud to fight alongside them," said Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democratic senator, in a tweet.
President Barack Obama has faced stiff Republican opposition in his push for an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 to lift hundreds of thousands of people above the poverty line and reduce the widening income gap.
San Francisco and Seattle have adopted an local minimum wage standards of $15; the state of California raised its lowest pay rate by $1 to $9 an hour in July.
On Thursday, even McDonald's food-service workers under contract with the federal government went on strike at the restaurant in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington.
"At McDonald's we respect everyone's right to peacefully protest," the company said in a statement.
McDonald's said about 90% of its US restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees "who set wages according to job level and local and federal laws."
Copyright Agence France-Presse 2014