ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
NEW YORK — Police handcuffed dozens of protesters who blocked traffic in dozens of cities across the country on Thursday in their latest attempt to escalate efforts to get McDonald’s, Burger King, and other fast-food companies to pay employees at least $15 an hour.
The protests, which were planned by labor organizers for about 150 cities nationwide throughout Thursday, are part of a campaign called “Fight for $15.”
Since the efforts began in late 2012, organizers have switched up their tactics every few months to bring attention to the protests, which have attracted spotty crowds.
Organizers previously had said they planned to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience on Thursday, which they predicted might result in arrests.
In New York, 19 people were arrested on Thursday for blocking traffic, with at least three people wearing McDonald’s uniforms taken away by police officers after standing in the middle of a busy street near Times Square.
About two dozen protesters were detained in Detroit after they wouldn’t move out of a street near a McDonald’s restaurant.
Others were arrested in Chicago, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, and Denver.
In Milwaukee, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore was taken away in handcuffs by police for blocking traffic at a McDonald’s.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
“I take great pride in supporting Milwaukee workers as they risk arrest in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow for their families,” Ms. Moore said in a statement through spokesman Eric Harris.
Tyree Johnson also was among those hauled away in Chicago. Mr. Johnson earns $8.45 an hour after working at a Chicago McDonald’s for more than two decades. “I’ve been there 22 years and I can’t help my family,” he said.
The “Fight for $15” campaign, which is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others, comes at a time when the wage gap between the poor and the rich has become a hot political issue.
Many fast-food workers do not make much more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which adds up to about $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week.
The National Restaurant Association said in a statement that the protests are an attempt by unions to “boost their dwindling membership.”
The industry lobbying group said it hopes organizers will be respectful to customers and workers during the protests.
McDonald’s, the world’s largest hamburger chain, said in a statement that there were no service disruptions at its restaurants on Thursday.