– Thousands of fast-food workers from restaurants such as McDonald's Corp. and Wendy's Co. walked off the job beginning Monday to protest for higher pay.

Employees of fast-food eateries struck in New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Mo, and Flint, Mich., this week, organizers said in an e-mailed statement. The workers, who also are demanding the right to form a union without retaliation, are organized by groups such as New York Communities for Change, Jobs with Justice and Action Now. The Service Employees International Union is providing money to the campaigns and helping to organize the strikes.

Workers from Burger King Worldwide Inc., Domino's Pizza Inc. and Subway restaurants also are striking this week in the seven cities.

American fast-food and retail workers have been striking this year for higher wages, and the protest that began Monday seeks wages of $15 an hour, 66 percent higher than the $9.02 that U.S. fast-food cooks earn, on average. In April, employees from McDonald's and Yum Brands Inc., which owns the KFC and Taco Bell chains, joined workers from Macy's Inc. and L Brands' Victoria's Secret chain in walking off the job in Chicago and New York for higher pay.

"With the Occupy movement and discussion about the 1 percent, people are much more aware about the increase in inequality," Janet Currie, an economics and policy affairs professor at Princeton University, in Princeton, N.J., said during an interview. "There are a lot of people right at the top of the distribution who are doing better than that segment of the population has since the 1920s, and that's driving a lot of the income inequality."

McDonald's Chief Executive Don Thompson said last week that McDonald's is an "above-minimum-wage employer." The world's largest restaurant chain, with 14,100 U.S. locations, will continue to provide entry-level jobs, he said.

"The majority of McDonald's restaurants across the country are owned and operated by independent business men and women where employees are paid competitive wages, and have access to flexible schedules and quality, affordable benefits," Ofelia Casillas, a spokeswoman for Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's, said in an e-mail.

The leisure and hospitality industry, which includes restaurants, is adding jobs faster than any other sector in the United States. In June, the sector added 75,000 jobs, according to federal data.