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Minneapolis fast-food workers join nationwide wage protests

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Protesters rally in Minneapolis.
People gathered Thursday afternoon in Uptown Minneapolis as part of a nationwide protest of fast-food workers.
Matt Sepic / MPR News

Updated 3:42 p.m.

Dozens of protesters in northeast Minneapolis joined a nationwide protest of fast-food workers on Thursday, demanding a wage of $15 an hour.

Nakia Joseph works at McDonald's in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. She makes $8 an hour and said she struggles to scrape together the $800 she needs to pay for an apartment for herself and her 2-year-old son. 

"I just feel like it's just not right, the work that I put in to try to make my income," Joseph said. "Every time I get paid it's like my whole check is gone — I have nothing to show for it."

Protesters in Minneapolis Thursday
Protesters walked in northeast Minneapolis on Thursday morning.
Tim Nelson / MPR News

The "Fight for $15" campaign has spread across the country in recent years, although this is the first time that workers in Minnesota have officially joined the protests. 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. 

Minnesota's minimum wage was raised to $8 last month and is scheduled to rise again in each of the next two years. Even so, minimum wages in Minnesota will remain considerably below the $15 the group demands. 

National organizers said strikers were planning to walk off the job in 150 cities Thursday. Organizers said they planned to focus on civil disobedience during today's protests. There are reports of arrests in cities like New York and Detroit, where protesters blocked traffic. 

The movement is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others. It's 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 earlier this week 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.'"

The National Restaurant Association, on the other hand, said in a statement that the protests are an attempt by unions to "boost their dwindling membership.''

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)