Fast-food workers and other protest participants chanted and marched through a Los Angeles McDonald's restaurant Thursday morning as part of a nationwide strike involving industry employees in about 100 cities.
The workers walked off the job Thursday as part of the largest effort yet in a push for higher pay for fast-food restaurant employees. The actions are intended to build on a campaign that began about a year ago to call attention to the difficulties of living on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or about $15,000 a year.
California's minimum rate is $8 per hour.
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A demonstration at a McDonald's on West Manchester Avenue in Los Angeles began outside the restaurant at about 6 a.m. Some of the workers were also part of an August strike.
"This is actually a tough job," said worker Roberto Tejada. "If I struggle with $8 an hour just for myself, imagine how people with children struggle."
It was not immediately clear what kind of impact the walk-out will have on restaurant operations. The on-duty manager at the McDonald's West Manchester Avenue location told NBC4 that all scheduled employees arrived for work Thursday.
Some workers and other rally participants later entered the store and, led by a protesters with megaphones, chanted in front of the restaurant counter as customers continued to place their orders.
Attorney and women's right activist Sandra Fluke -- the target of on-air attacks by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh -- and Pastor William Smart Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, joined the demonstration.
"This community is done with this kind of undignified treatment for these workers," Fluke said through a megaphone as she stood in front of protesters.
The protests are part of a movement by labor unions, Democrats and other worker advocacy groups to raise pay in low-wage sectors. Last month, President Obama said he would back a Senate measure to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, and he reiterated his support on Wednesday.
Protesters are calling for $15 an hour, although many see the figure as a rallying point rather than a near-term possibility.
Restaurant association officials called the one-day strike a public relations effort by organized labor. Doubling the minimum wage "ignores the economics of running a restaurant," according to the California Restaurant Association.
"As national labor organizers ramp up their assault against the restaurant industry today, it's important to recognize that the protestors outside of restaurants are far more likely to be labor activists and paid demonstrators than actual restaurant workers," said Jot Condie, of the California Restaurant Association. "Restaurants of all kinds provide millions of young Californians with their first job, and the opportunity to acquire important skills they'll take with them the rest of their lives. The weakened economy has created an environment where more people are looking to our industry for short-term and long-term work opportunities, and fortunately restaurants have been able to provide thousands of new jobs."
Similar actions this summer had varying results, with some restaurants unable to serve customers and others seemingly unaffected.