Linda Archer said she has worked at a nearby McDonald's for three years and makes $8 an hour. The protesters want fast food restaurants to pay $15 per hour, almost double the current statewide average pay of $8.25 per hour.
"I'm asking for respect, I'm asking for $15, I'm asking for a union, I'm asking for job security," she said. McDonald's said in a statement that it values and respects all the employees who work at its restaurants.
New York's minimum wage is $7.25 but the state Legislature last month voted to raise it to $9 by 2016.
The day of picket lines organized by a coalition of unions and community groups followed a similar job action last November. Organizers said they expected hundreds of workers to demonstrate Thursday at dozens of fast food establishments, including McDonald's, Domino's, Wendy's and Pizza Hut.
Fast food workers deserve union representation, said Richard Trumka, national president of the AFL-CIO, who stopped by the Wendy's protest.
"They're being mistreated, they're being underpaid, they're going to stand together until they get fair treatment and we're going to stand with them," Trumka said.
Shahnaz Perveen ate her lunch inside Wendy's while protesters marched outside but said she supported the workers' demands. "They work really hard," she said.
Thursday's action also commemorated the assassination 45 years ago of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, where he was supporting a strike by sanitation workers.
Several pickets wore signs that said "I am a man" or "I am a woman," echoing placards carried in Memphis in 1968.
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