The protests appear to have largely gone smoothly throughout the morning, although at least one arrest has been reported in Jackson, Mississippi, where a protester was reportedly arrested for trespassing on the property of a McDonald's where there were demonstrations occurring.
“It’s going to get bigger and bigger until they finally give us what we deserve or close down,” said Jorel Ware, a McDonald’s worker who has been involved in the Fight for $15 campaign since nearly the beginning. “The money we deserve, or close down. One or the other’s going to have to happen.”
Ware, 34, works at one of the McDonald’s restaurants affected by the company’s recent wage hike, which raised base pay for employees at McDonald’s-owned restaurants to $1 above local minimum wages. He described the hike as “clearly a PR stunt” aimed at deflecting the negative attention Fight for $15 has brought to the company’s labor practices.
“We want $15 and a union,” he said. “That dollar raise is nothing. It won’t pull us out of poverty, so whatever.”
In a statement provided to Al Jazeera two days before the April 15 protest, McDonald’s USA said it “respects the rights of our employees whether or not to join a union” and described its wage hike as “an important and meaningful first step as we continue to look at opportunities that will make a difference for employees.”
Workers in other industries who attended the protests said that the problems fast-food workers face reflect issues in the larger U.S. economy. Chris Brandt, 71, an adjunct poetry teacher at Fordham University, said “adjuncts are the fast-food workers of higher education.”
“We are underpaid. We can’t make a living teaching at one school, so we have to have other jobs,” he said. “I get paid $3,800 per course and can only teach four courses per year. That’s not enough.”
As the campaign has garnered more attention, new support has come from outside the labor movement as well. Racial justice organizations were early supporters of the campaign, and several of the attendees at the New York rally wore sweatshirts emblazoned with the slogans “Black lives matter” and “Hands up, don’t shoot” — references to the racial justice campaign that emerged out of Ferguson, Missouri, where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teen in August 2014. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and 350.org, also indicated their support online.
Internationally, protest sites included Brazil, Ireland, and Nepal.
Brandt, who said he attended protests during the civil rights era and the Vietnam War, said, “It’s all the same fight.”
“This is part and parcel of environmental, anti-nuclear, anti-war,” he said. “All of that stuff is all the same fight. The economic part of it, police shootings — it’s all the same thing. And if we don’t have the kind of solidarity where we’re willing to join with each other, we’re not going to win this fight.”
Veundja Katuuo, a 29-year-old yoga instructor, said the low-wage economy “affects each and every one of us.”
“When you talk about civility and the foundation for families and providers for whom this is their career and their livelihood, how can you not feel?” she said. “How does that not affect you?”