The protests have certainly been grabbing attention: "Fast-food workers strike, protest for higher pay," screams one national newspaper's headline. "Public backs $10.10 minimum wage, not $15," states another.
For many minimum wage workers, however, the fatter paychecks probably haven't materialized yet.
Experts say that while the nationwide effort to raise awareness about how tough it is to live on $7.25 an hour has resulted in some state and local increases, a nationwide push to eventually increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour appears to be facing significant Republican opposition.
"People feel like there's probably limited likelihood of passage in the House of Representatives," said Jack Temple, policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project, which has advocated higher pay for low-wage workers.
Advocates such as Temple argue that what's happened is still significant.
Temple said five states—California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York—enacted minimum wage increases this year, and some cities are pushing for similar hikes.
The Seattle suburb of SeaTac has drawn national attention after voters passed a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for certain workers, despite strong objections from area businesses. But the effort faces a legal challenge.
Many more states are expected to take up similar fights next year, and advocates expect it to be a significant issue in the midterm elections next November.
"It's easy, sometimes, for us to get discouraged when you see one or two states nudging the minimum wage up by a little bit here and a little bit there, but it does add up to something," said Doug Hall, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network for the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute. "There's a sense of momentum."
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Arindrajit Dube, an associate professor economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who studies minimum wage effects, said it's historically significant for fast-food workers and other low-wage employees to protest publicly.
"Where that leads to, I do not know," he said. "But in the meantime, we should recognize that these are different patterns than we have seen in the past."
Still, experts say, there are many states with more conservative legislatures where minimum wage workers are not likely to get a pay increase without a federal mandate. The federal minimum wage was last raised in 2009, to $7.25 an hour.
That has left many low-wage workers watching the battle from the sidelines. Though they're interested in the outcome, it doesn't affect their day-to-day lives yet.
(Read more: For women, asking for a raise can backfire)
Crystal Dupont and John White are two workers profiled by NBC News last March as part of the launch of our In Plain Sight project.
As 2013 comes to a close, NBC News asked White and Dupont to tell us how things are going for them now. Their responses have been edited for space and clarity.
John White: Living below my means, and grateful to God
In the last six months, things have improved for me. I still work at the same pizza restaurant, but the difference is that I'm getting more hours now.