Fast food workers demanding higher pay protested today nationwide, outside restaurants owned by Burger King, KFC, McDonald's, Wendy's and other chains. Organizers said demonstrations were taking place in as many as 50 cities big and small, including New York, Dallas and Chicago; but also San Leandro, Calif.; and Missoula, Mont.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, one of several unions providing support to the protesters, said in a statement: "The fast food workers are fighting for all of us. SEIU members, like all service-sector workers, are worse off when large fast-food and retail companies are able to hold down wages."
The protests came a day after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, one of the objectives of which had been to give all Americans "a decent standard of living."
Organizers said the protests extend beyond fast food restaurants and include some stores owned by Macy's, Sears and Victoria's Secret, among other retailers, and even coffee bars in Seattle.
The federal minimum wage--$7.25 an hour—last was raised in 2009. Protesters are asking for $15 an hour.
The National Restaurant Association told ABC News the argument over raising wages should be based on fact—and that the fact is, only 5 percent of restaurant employees earn the minimum wage. The association further says that the 5 percent are mostly part-time workers, and that half are teenagers.
A statement by McDonald's to ABC News said in part: "The story promoted by the individuals organizing these events does not provide an accurate picture of what it means to work at McDonald's. McDonald's aims to offer competitive pay and benefits. We provide training and professional development for all of those who wish to take advantage of those opportunities. Our history is full of examples of individuals who worked their first job with McDonald's and went on to successful careers both within and outside of McDonald's."