Demanding higher wages, fast-food workers plan biggest national strike to date

BY Anna Christiansen  September 4, 2014 at 11:20 AM EST

Protesters demanding higher wages and unionization for fast food workers block traffic near Times Square on Sept. 4, 2014 in New York City. Protests are planned in more than 150 cities throughout the U.S. today, as workers demand higher wages. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Protesters demanding higher wages and unionization for fast food workers block traffic near Times Square on Sept. 4, 2014 in New York City. Protests are planned in more than 150 cities throughout the U.S. today, as workers demand higher wages. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The largest fast-food employee protest is poised to happen across the nation today. Organizers, including fast-food workers from KFC, Burger King, McDonald’s and other convenience restaurants, are demanding a pay bump to $15 an hour and fervently pushing to unionize.

At least 19 individuals are reportedly under arrest so far, only a few hours after the civil disobedience began at 7 a.m. EDT Thursday.

More than 150 U.S. cities are expected to see thousands of fast-food workers walk off their jobs and join the national strike. Home care workers are reportedly joining as well. The movement to increase pay to a livable wage has gained momentum in the past few years, particularly given the federal minimum wage has rested at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Experts claim an $11 hourly wage is necessary to keep a family of four out of poverty, Reuters reports.

The strike is led and funded by Service Employees International Union, SEIU, who call the effort “Fight for 15.” They have attacked the global fast food chains’ relationship with their franchisees, given pay decisions are at their discretion.

Organizers expect today’s protest to be the biggest coordinated walk-off to date. It is unknown how long it will last.