Starting this morning, hundreds of fast food workers walked out of their jobs to stand in solidarity for a wage increase and the right to unionize without retaliation. The protests began before sunrise this morning at fast food establishments across the city, where workers are demanding an increase in hourly pay from $7.25 to $15, a move they say is necessary to support their families and ease the financial burden on taxpayers who fund public assistance programs. Organizers say this is to be the largest rally to date, with workers from 27 fast food establishments like McDonald's and Burger King set to participate.

Since the recession, the number of workers employed by fast food chains has increased greatly but with no standard in place to make sure workers are able to earn a living wage. Fast Food Forward, a group comprised of food workers in New York City who organized the event, points out that the average yearly salary of fast food workers is a mere $11,000 and makes up only 25% of the amount of money needed to live here. "Everyday these workers face disrespect from their employers and unlivable wages." explained Kira Shepherd, Campaign Director for The Black Institute, who are also taking part in today's events. "Moreover, they have no ability to unionize so they can work to resolve these issues."

Similar protests have been staged before, but today's walk-outs have special significance as they also honor Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated in Memphis 45 years ago today after speaking to striking sanitation workers demanding a decent living wage. The protests will continue through the evening, with a rally at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem at 5:30 p.m., followed by a march to a nearby McDonald's on Lexington and 125th Street.