A number of workers at McDonald's and other Twin Cities fast-food chains — joined by labor advocates — took part Thursday in a nationwide "strike" for better pay.
The exercise was more of a protest than a mass walkout, one aimed at focusing attention on fast-food wages. The protesters' message, played out in cities across the country, is that wages now in the $8 to $9 range should be $15 an hour — and that workers should unionize.
"It's really important to raise the wage so I can support my family economically," said Eneida Jaimes, a striking worker at the Uptown Minneapolis McDonald's, where about 75 labor supporters demonstrated.
Jaimes, who has two daughters ages 12 and 14, said she's worked at the Uptown McDonald's for 10 years and gets paid $8.90 an hour.
The campaign to raise that number, "Fight for $15," is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others. 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.
Organizers were planning fast-food wage demonstrations Thursday in at least 150 cities, though it's not clear how many occurred. Protests in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami and Denver led to arrests and police intervention.
Andrew Craig, a 28-year-old who has worked at a St. Paul McDonald's since April, protested in Uptown. He said he makes $8.08 an hour and is living in a shelter.
"It's a decent job, but I don't think we get paid enough," he said. "I can't afford my own place, even a one-bedroom."
In a statement on its website, McDonald's said "the topic of minimum wage goes well beyond McDonald's — it affects our country's entire workforce. McDonald's and our independent franchisees support paying our valued employees fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace."
The majority of McDonald's restaurants are run by franchisees, a common restaurant industry arrangement in which independent businesses operate under a national brand.
About 25 workers at 10 Twin Cities fast-food outlets locally walked out on their jobs Thursday, said Brian Payne, an organizer with Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), which put together the Twin Cities event. About half of those restaurants were McDonald's, he said, but the campaign has also targeted Burger King and Subway.
CTUL, a labor rights group though not a formal union, has been active in recent years advocating for Twin Cities janitors.
Workers and labor supporters held demonstrations at two local McDonald's, one at 1440 Stinson Blvd. NE. in Minneapolis, the second at 2929 Hennepin Av. S. in Uptown.
Around 12:30 p.m., protesters massed at the Uptown restaurant and marched in, chanting slogans like, "Hey McDonald's, you're no good, pay your workers like you should." The demonstration broke up peacefully.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.