Minnesota fast food workers join national protest for first time

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Fast food workers in Minnesota joined a nationwide protest Thursday demanding a wage of $15 an hour and the right to organize a union.

This is the first time workers in Minnesota have officially joined the "Fight for $15" protests, MPR News reports, which is financially backed by the Service Employees International Union and others. Such protests have spread across the country in recent years as employees demand the raise – many fast food employees don't make much more than federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which adds up to about $15,000 for a 40-hour work week, reports say.

Protesters gathered in Northeast Minneapolis Thursday morning and near a Minneapolis McDonald's in the afternoon, joining in a day of national protests planned in over 100 cities. National organizers said they would focus on civil disobedience to draw more attention to the cause, FOX 9 says. Such disobedience led to arrests in some cities – protesters in New York were arrested for blocking traffic, according to NBC News New York.

There's no word on any arrests from the Minneapolis protests.

A second round of protests was held Thursday afternoon:

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis, attended the protests Thursday morning. He's been outspoken about his support of the fast food workers' strike and recently wrote an editorial in The Nation about the issue.

Other politicians also attended the protests:

President Barack Obama mentioned the protests this week as he continues to push Congress to raise the minimum wage, the New York Times notes, saying, "There's a national movement going on made up of fast food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity. ... If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, I'd join a union."

The National Restaurant Association said in a statement the protests are "nothing more than labor groups’ self-interested attempts to boost their dwindling membership by targeting restaurant employees. We hope labor organizers will not escalate with aggressive tactics or intimidation, and will act with respect toward our customers and employees."

Here's a glimpse at the protests around the country:

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