NEW YORK (TheBlaze/AP) -- Fast-food protests are under way in at least 50 cities including New York, Chicago and Detroit, with organizers expecting the biggest national walkouts yet in a demand for higher wages.
Protesters are demanding that their wages be raised to at least $15 an hour.
Similar protests organized by unions and "community groups" in cities over the past several months have brought a decent amount media attention to a staple of the fast-food industry -- the so-called "McJobs" people complain don’t pay well enough.
But it's not clear what impact, if any, the protests will have on business.
In New York, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined hundreds of protesters in a march before flooding inside a McDonald's near the Empire State Building on Thursday morning.
Shortly after the demonstration, however, the restaurant seemed to be operating normally and a few customers said they hadn't heard of the movement. The same was true at a McDonald's a few blocks away.
Here's footage from a protest in Chicago:
The lack of awareness among some illustrates the challenge workers face. For instance, protesting fast-food workers, who are demanding $15 an hour, represent a tiny fraction of the industry. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which works out to about $15,000 a year for full-time employees.
True, the movement has the support of the White House and economists like Paul Krugman. But not even President Barack Obama is asking for $15 an hour (at most he has requested that the federal minimum wage be raised to $9 an hour).
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents more than 2 million works in health care, janitorial and other industries, has been providing financial support and training for local organizers around the country.
Thursday’s protests follow a series of strikes that began last November in New York City. The biggest effort so far was over the summer when about 2,200 of the country's millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities.
Ryan Carter, a 29-year-old who was walking out of the McDonald's where workers demonstrated on Thursday, said he "absolutely" supported workers demand for higher wages.
"They work harder than the billionaires in this city," he said. But Carter, who was holding a cup of the chain's coffee he bought for $1, said he didn't plan to stop his regular trips to McDonald's.
McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. say they don't make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate the majority of their U.S. restaurants. Wendy's and Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, did not respond to requests for comment.
Here's footage of a protest in St. Louis:
Workers were also expected to walk off their jobs in cities including Atlanta, Boston, Hartford, Conn., Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Many targeted restaurants will likely be able to stay open, however. The strikes were announced earlier, giving managers time to adjust staffing levels.
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Featured image AP photo.