By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. fast-food workers launched a nationwide protest in Brooklyn early Tuesday to argue for higher wages and union rights that they hope will catch the attention of candidates in the 2016 elections.
A couple hundred protesters marched down downtown Brooklyn's Fulton Street, blocking traffic, chanting "We are the workers, the mighty mighty workers fighting for justice."
Beating drums and carrying banners reading "A living wage = quality care" and "On strike for work that sustains families," the protesters stopped to rally outside a McDonald's restaurant.
Organizers of the Fight for $15 campaign say the protests will be followed by rallies in 500 cities by low-wage workers in such sectors as fast food and home and child care.
The protests and strikes are aimed at gaining candidates' support heading into the 2016 election for a minimum wage of $15 an hour and union rights, it said.
Last December the group staged similar protests in some 200 cities.
The Fight for $15 campaign began in late 2012 and a major backer is the Service Employees International Union.
Many U.S. cities and municipalities have set a higher base rate than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
The strikes and protests will include workers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC and other restaurants, the statement said.
The scheduled protests will take place as McDonald's is holding an investor meeting.
Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a blog that few workers actually would strike. He wrote that the protests are part of union leaders' goal of signing up fast-food workers to boost union revenues.
(Reporting By Laila Kearney and Ian Simpson; Editing by Edward Tobin and Chizu Nomiyama)