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Fast food workers arrested in US protests

Police arrested at least 44 people on Thursday (Sep 4) in New York and Los Angeles during protests by fast food restaurant workers demanding better pay and the right to form unions.

NEW YORK: Police arrested at least 44 people on Thursday (Sep 4) in New York and Los Angeles during protests by fast food restaurant workers demanding better pay and the right to form unions.

Hundreds of protesters converged on Manhattan's theater and entertainment district as part of a day of nationwide strikes and demonstrations targeting the fast-food industry, according to the site strikefastfood.org.

In Los Angeles demonstrators gathered before dawn outside a McDonald's restaurant in the south of the city, before a separate protest in downtown LA later in the day, in which 10 people were arrested for failing to disperse.

In New York, about 20 of the protesters staged a sit-in in the street outside a McDonald's restaurant on Times Square. Nineteen were arrested for disorderly conduct when they obstructed vehicle traffic at that demo.

Later in the day another 15 people were detained, a New York Police Department spokesman said, not specifying where those arrests were made.

The protesters are demanding that fast-food workers' wages be increased to US$15 an hour, more than double the minimum wage of US$7.25 an hour paid by many restaurant chains. They also are pressing for the right to form unions free of retaliation.

Organisers said protests were called in 150 US cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Denver and Los Angeles. However, they called off plans for a strike in the St. Louis, Missouri area, the scene of sometimes violent protests after the Aug 9 police shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson.

"Given recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and the desire for a sense of peace and normalcy in the community, fast food workers decided not to hold a Thursday strike action in the St. Louis area," they said.

The movement by fast food workers began in New York in November 2012 and has since spread, but its impact outside the United States has been more muted.

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