About a dozen protesters demanding higher pay for fast-food workers blocked the street in front of a McDonald's in Times Square on Thursday and were arrested.
Organizers said they planned to use civil disobedience. One woman being escorted away by police told NBC New York that the arrest was worth it.
More than 100 fast-food workers rallied in Times Square. Similar protests are expected to take place in 150 cities nationwide. It's the latest national protest to push McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's and other fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour.
"Give us $15 an hour so we can at least live," said fast-food worker, Carlos Robinson. "That's all we want to do is live and survive and feed our families."
The "Fight for $15" campaign, which is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others, has gained national attention at a time when the wage gap between the poor and the rich has become a hot political issue. President Barack Obama mentioned the campaign at a Labor Day appearance in Milwaukee.
"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," Obama said, as he pushed Congress to raise the minimum wage. "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," he added.
Many fast-food workers do not make much more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which adds up to about $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week.
The protests have been going on for about two years, but organizers have kept the campaign in the spotlight by switching their tactics every few months. In the past, supporters have showed up at a McDonald's shareholder meeting and held strikes. The idea of civil disobedience arose in July when 1,300 workers held a convention in Chicago.
Past protests have targeted a couple of restaurants in each city for a limited time, in many cases posing little disruption to operations.
The National Restaurant Association said in a statement that the protests are an attempt by unions to "boost their dwindling membership."