Unhappy meal: American fast food workers strike over minimum wage pay

President Obama has called for the minimum wage to rise to $9 an hour - protesting workers want $15 an hour

Fast-food employees in the US say they are being underpaid by major chains such as Burger King and McDonald’s, and they are not lovin’ it.

Workers in at least 50 cities went on strike or staged protests today as part of a growing campaign for increased pay in the service industry. The strikes at restaurants such as Wendy’s and Taco Bell – as well as a handful of retail chains – spread as far afield as Seattle in the North-east, Chicago in the Midwest, and Raleigh in the South. In New York, some 300 protesters occupied a branch of McDonald’s close to the Empire State Building.

President Barack Obama and others in Washington have called for an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 (£4.70) an hour to $9. The workers say that a year of full-time work at the current minimum would net them $15,000, but many work only part-time.

They are demanding the minimum hourly rate be raised to as much as $15. Most of the new jobs added in the US since the recession have been part-time positions – and many of those are in food service and retail.

Workers are also asking to be allowed to bargain for better pay and conditions by forming unions, which the fast-food industry has staunchly resisted in the past.

McDonald’s and Burger King Worldwide said in a statement that most US branches of their chains were independent franchises, and that they were not therefore responsible for setting wage levels.

The companies also claim that raising pay would increase operating costs and thus prices. McDonald’s 2012 profits were in the region of $5.47bn.