McDonald's stores targeted by protests for $15 an hour

Last Updated Apr 14, 2016 8:30 AM EDT

NEW YORK -Protesters calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union will be at McDonald's restaurants around the country and overseas Thursday as part of an ongoing push targeting the world's biggest hamburger chain.

The "Fight for $15" campaign says low-wage workers including airport workers, adjunct professors and home care workers plan to turn out to show their solidarity with fast-food workers. They say they're targeting McDonald's because of its ability to influence pay practices throughout the economy.

The push is being backed by the Service Employees International Union and began in late 2012, with striking fast-food workers in New York City. Since then, the campaign has expanded and helped turn hourly pay into a major political issue.

Organizers said strikes and protests were planned for cities including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. In Paris, about 100 people waving red union flags protested outside a McDonald's restaurant at Disneyland.

The campaign is taking place while McDonald's Corp. (MCD) attempts to reinvigorate its business after a decline in customer traffic. This week, executives met with franchisees in Florida for a bi-annual convention and discussed plans for a rebound.

Lisa McComb, a McDonald's representative, says the company gives workers access to programs that help them earn high school and college degrees. She said McDonald's raised pay last year to $1 above the local minimum wage for workers at company-owned stores in the U.S., which account for about 10 percent of its more than 14,000 locations.

"We proudly invest in the future of those who work in McDonald's restaurants," McComb wrote.

McDonald's workers called those measures a publicity stunt that failed to address the difficulties they face.

Sepia Rasheen Coleman, a home care worker in Memphis, Tennessee, said she became involved in the Fight for $15 campaign after an organizer reached out to her on Facebook. She said she was initially dismissive of the effort, but was later awed by the sense of support she felt when participating in her first demonstration.

Since then, Coleman said she has been to Washington, D.C. for training on organizing protests.

"This is a mission, this is something I need to do," she said.