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4 Sep, 2014 16:21

Fast food worker strike begins with arrests nationwide (PHOTOS)

Fast food worker strike begins with arrests nationwide (PHOTOS)

Fast food workers from around 150 cities across the United States went on strike early Thursday in an effort to secure higher wages and the right to join a union.

At least 19 demonstrators were arrested Thursday morning in New York City’s Times Square, police told the Daily News, with similar results being reported out of Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Indianapolis and elsewhere as employees at eateries from coast-to-coast rally for an industry minimum wage of $15 and the ability to unionize.

“The company should pay me more. I am worth more,” Dana Wittman, a 38-year-old Pizza Hut employee in Kansas City, Missouri who makes $9 an hour told the Guardian this week. “They make billions a year and I don’t even get health insurance. The CEO gets health insurance.”

According to NBC News, the pizza chain’s Kansas City location is one of 60 eateries in that town alone where workers were expected to picket on Thursday. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that about 50 people demonstrated outside of a McDonalds in the major Ohio city, and actions were reportedly underway at Taco Bell, Wendy’s and other fast food shops nationwide.

A protester demanding higher wages and unionization for fast food workers is arrested by police near Times Square on September 4, 2014 in New York City. (AFP Photo / Andrew Burton)

By late Thursday morning, the largest action appeared to be at Times Square, where a sit-in outside a McDonalds in the Big Apple’s famed theatre district started at 7 a.m. and netted nearly 20 arrests by the morning’s end, according to witnesses; one onlooker there, the Guardian reported, said hundreds were outside of the Times Square McDonalds by 6:30 a.m., and similar actions were planned for later in the day across NYC.

In all instances, protesters have been causing a commotion in hopes of raising awareness of their intent to set a $15 minimum wage for industry workers across the board. Last year, a report from the National Employment Law Project revealed that the median hourly wage for cooks, cashiers and crews at these restaurants is $8.94.

Terrence Wise, a Burger King worker from Oakland, California, told the Huffington Post ahead of this week’s demonstrations that the latest round of protests comes after fast food employees voted earlier this year to continue fighting for better conditions.

Protesters demanding higher wages and unionization for fast food workers march near Times Square on September 4, 2014 in New York City.(AFP Photo / Andrew Burton)

"Thirteen hundred workers unanimously adopted a resolution at our convention in July to do whatever it takes to win $15 an hour and union rights, including participating in non-violent, peaceful protests in the tradition of the civil rights movement," Wise said. "On Thursday, we are prepared to take arrests to show our commitment to the growing Fight for $15."

Even US President Barack Obama acknowledged the planned demonstrations and the strife of fast food workers during an address on Labor Day this week.

"All across the country right now there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity," Obama said. "There is no denying a simple truth. America deserves a raise."

By noontime Thursday on the East Code, the Guardian had reported 30 arrests related to the protests in Detroit, eight in St. Louis and a handful in San Diego and Little Rock.

Demonstrators take part in a protest in front of a McDonald's Restaurant In Chicago, Illinois, September 4, 2014. (Reuters / Jim Young)