McDonald’s workers demand $15 an hour in rallies across nation

Bernie and Julian joined the rallies

(CNN/AP/Gray News) – Protesters and presidential candidates called for higher wages and better conditions for McDonald’s employees on Thursday at the chain’s restaurants across the nation.

The union-backed activist group Fight for $15 organized the rallies.

Democratic presidential contender Julian Castro joined a march to a McDonald’s in North Carolina.

Nearly all the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have expressed support for the idea that the federal minimum wage should be more than doubled to $15 an hour.

The McDonald’s annual shareholders meeting is also Thursday in Dallas. Striking cooks and cashiers planned to travel to the shareholder meeting, where they’ll attend a video town hall hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, another Democratic presidential candidate.

Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and current San Antonio mayor, marched with roughly 200 activists, minimum wage workers and union representatives from a park in Durham to a nearby McDonald’s. He joined them in chants of, “Put some respect in my check,” and “What do we want? 15! When do we want it? Now!”

Workers banged on makeshift drums, waved red flags saying “NC raise up” and carried a giant effigy of McDonald’s cartoon character Ronald McDonald. The march ended in a rally in front of a McDonald’s.

"What's happened in this country over the last 40 years is we've expected less and less from people and from corporations at the very top, and we've expected more and more from the middle class and the working poor," Castro said during the rally.

He added that his campaign workers won't patronize McDonalds until worker's demands for higher wages, a union and sexual harassment protections are met. His speech drew applause from the crowd and cheers of "you've got my vote!"

McDonalds has come under fire from workers in recent years over their treatment and wages.

Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union helped file 25 sexual harassment charges against the restaurant chain.

Copyright 2019 CNN, Associated Press and Gray Television Group, Inc. All rights reserved.