NEW YORK —
The National Retail Federation called the actions "yet more theater orchestrated by organized labor, for organized labor." The group said it showed the labor movement is facing depleted membership rolls.
Walkouts were also planned Thursday in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Seattle, St. Louis, Hartford, Conn., Memphis, Tenn., and other cities. Organizers said they expected thousands of workers and their allies to turn out, but the number of actual participants was unclear.
In New York, City Council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn joined about 300 to 400 workers and supporters in a march before the group flooded into a McDonald's near the Empire State Building. Shortly after the demonstration, however, the restaurant seemed to be operating normally, and a few customers said they hadn't heard of the movement. The same was true at a McDonald's a few blocks away.
In Atlanta, a TV station showed customers and workers in a McDonald's going about their business as protesters read a statement inside the restaurant.
The lack of public awareness illustrates the challenge workers face in building wider support. Workers participating in the strikes represent a tiny fraction of the industry. And fast-food jobs are known for their high turnover rates and relatively young workers.
In another neighborhood of New York City, workers chanted "We can't survive on $7.25 an hour" outside a Wendy's and effectively cut off business. There were no customers inside.
In Detroit, the dining area of a McDonald's was shut down as workers and others protested outside. A Subway in Seattle was able to stay open despite dozens of protesters outside chanting for $15 an hour.
"I know I'm risking my job, but it's my right to fight for what I deserve," said Julio Wilson, one of about 30 fast-food workers who picketed outside a Little Caesars in Raleigh, N.C. Wilson, who has a 5-year-old daughter, said he earned $9 an hour at the pizza restaurant.