Not everyone was supportive. Striking workers in Topeka, Kan., were briefly confronted by Richard Moore, who said he understood the strike but not why workers were seeking "$15 for flipping burgers."
Moore, 57, had been sitting on a curb holding a sign saying he was a veteran looking for a job.
The latest protests follow a series of strikes that began last November in New York City. The biggest effort so far was over the summer when, organizers say, about 2,200 people staged one-day demonstrations in seven cities.
McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. say they don't make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate most of their U.S. restaurants. At restaurants that it owns, McDonald's said any move to raise entry-level pay would raise overall costs and lead to higher menu prices.
The company said it provides professional development for interested employees and that the protests don't give an accurate picture of what it means to work at McDonald's.
"We respect our employees' rights to voice their opinions. Employees who participate in these activities and return to work are welcomed back and scheduled to work their regular shifts as usual," McDonald's said in an emailed statement.
Wendy's said in a statement that it was "proud to provide a place where thousands of people, who come to us asking for a job, can enter the workforce at a starting wage, gain skills and advance with us or move on to something else."
Subway and Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, did not respond to requests for comment.
Even though they're not in unions, fast-food workers who take part in strikes are generally protected from retaliation by employers. Federal labor law gives all workers the right to engage in "protected concerted activities" to complain about wages, working conditions or other terms of employment.
"It's always been understood that people who fall under this concerted activity umbrella are protected as long as they are protesting not only on their own behalf but on behalf of others as well," said Robert Kaiser, a St. Louis labor law attorney.
Associated Press writers Sam Hananel in Washington, D.C.; Phillip Lucas in Atlanta; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tenn.; Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas; Rodrique Ngowi in Boston; Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle; John Milburn in Topeka, Kan.; Karen Matthews in New York and Michael Biesecker in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.
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