Protestors squared off with police at McDonald's flagship on 42nd Street in New York.
Dozens of workers were arrested Thursday for blocking traffic and other acts of civil disobedience during the latest in a series of staged strikes at quick-service restaurants around the country, according to various reports.
It was the seventh such event organized by grassroots groups funded by the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, since November 2012. The movement is pushing for an increase in the hourly minimum wage to at least $15, as well as the right for restaurant workers to unionize without retaliation. Organizers called for acts of civil disobedience to raise awareness for their cause.
According to USA Today, protesters were arrested in New York, Detroit, Chicago and Las Vegas. Thousands of workers carried picket signs in more than 100 cities.
The one-day events typically target large quick-service operators like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC.
In New York, workers staged a sit-in at the flagship McDonald’s in Times Square, temporarily shutting down traffic on 42nd Street.
In Detroit, 30 protestors were taken briefly into custody after they locked arms and sat in the street in front of a McDonald’s, blocking traffic, according to CBS Detroit.
McDonald’s said in a statement there were no reports of service disruptions, and restaurants remained open as usual. The company added that it has received reports that some participants are being paid up to $500 to protest and get arrested.
“At McDonald’s, we respect everyone’s rights to peacefully protest,” the statement said. “We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small and medium-sized businesses — like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants — is manageable.”
McDonald’s also contended that any minimum wage increases should be considered in light of the impact of the Affordable Care Act and its definition of full-time employment, as well as “the treatment, from a tax perspective, of investments made by business owners.”
In Houston, a Jack in the Box restaurant was targeted by members of the “Fight for 15” movement there.
Workers in Chicago sat near a McDonald’s and a Burger King, blocking traffic and singing “We Shall Not Be Moved.” According to Bloomberg, 19 protestors were detained, ticketed and released for causing a disturbance and disrupting traffic.
Industry groups have opposed the $15 proposal, arguing that it would have negative effects on jobs.
In a statement, Rob Green, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, called the staged protests “irresponsible” and “disturbing.”
“Unions are calling it ‘civil disobedience,’ when, in reality, this choreographed activity is trespassing and it’s illegal,” Green said.
“There are millions of workers in the food retail industry who find personal satisfaction in their work and appreciate the opportunities provided by the restaurants that hire them,” he added. “The activities being coordinated, financed and facilitated by labor unions — desperate for new membership dues — accomplish absolutely nothing.”