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US fast-food protesters cuffed at labor rallies

Police handcuffed several protesters in New York and Detroit on Thursday as they blocked traffic in the latest attempt to escalate their efforts to get McDonald's, Burger King and other fast-food companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour.

The protests, which are planned by labor organizers for about 150 cities nationwide throughout Thursday, are part of the "Fight for $15" campaign. Since the protests began in late 2012, organizers have switched up their tactics every few months.

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President Barack Obama mentioned the campaign earlier this week at an appearance marking the U.S. holiday of Labor Day in Milwaukee.

"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, as he pushed Congress to raise the minimum wage. "If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, I'd join a union."

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Before Thursday's protests, organizers said they planned to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to draw more attention to the cause. In the past, supporters have showed up at a McDonald's shareholder meeting and held strikes. The idea of civil disobedience arose in July when 1,300 workers held a convention in Chicago.

The movement, which is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others, has gained national attention at a time when the wage gap between the poor and the rich has become a hot political issue. Many fast-food workers do not make much more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which adds up to about $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week.

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The National Restaurant Association, on the other hand, said in a statement that the protests are an attempt by unions to "boost their dwindling membership." The industry lobbying group said it hopes organizers will be respectful to customers and workers during the protests.

Union organizers said they expected thousands to show up to Thursday's protests around the U.S. Previously, turnout has been fairly minimal in many places.

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By The Associated Press

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