Workers protest for higher pay in 'Fight for $15'

Protesters stopped traffic as they chanted and held signs demanding higher pay.

Protesters stopped traffic as they chanted and held signs demanding higher pay. (4/15/15)

NEW YORK - In Brooklyn and across the city, hundreds of workers demanded higher wages as part of a national campaign.

Hundreds of chanting protesters marched down Flatbush Avenue and in various parts of the city Wednesday, shutting down traffic in some instances. Part-time employees, students, construction workers and others joined fast-food employees as part of the national "Fight for $15" protest day.

Many protesters said that they just can't live on their current wages. "I work two jobs, and by the time I pay all my bills, I still don't have any money to put food in my house," said Beth Schaffer, a fast-food worker from South Carolina.

Organizers said demonstrations were planned for more than 230 U.S. cities and college campuses, as well as dozens of cities overseas. The Fight for $15 campaign is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union and began in late 2012.

In New York City, more than 100 chanting protesters holding signs with messages like "We See Greed" gathered outside a McDonald's around noon, prompting the store to lock its doors to prevent the crowd from taking over the store.

Demonstrators laid on the sidewalk to stage a "die-in," which became popular during the "Black Lives Matter" protests after recent police shootings of black men. Several wore hooded sweatshirts that said "I Can't Breathe," a nod to the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island after he was placed in a police chokehold.

McDonald's earlier this month said it would raise its starting salary to $1 above the local minimum wage, and give workers the ability to accrue paid time off. It marked the first national pay policy by McDonald's, and indicates the company wants to take control of its image as an employer more than two years after the protests began. But the move only applies to workers at company-owned stores, which account for about 10 percent of more than 14,300 locations.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer has already publicly voiced his backing of a minimum wage hike, saying it would boost paychecks by $10 billion a year, bringing the city one step closer to closing the income inequality gap.

AP contributed to this story.

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