Currently, the median pay for the fast food workers across the country is just over $9 an hour, or about $18,500 a year. That's roughly $4,500 lower than Census Bureau's poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.
Frankie Tisdale, a 26-year-old worker from a KFC in Brooklyn said he will join the strike with fellow workers next week.
Tisdale lives in his father's house in Brooklyn with his girlfriend and two young children. He earns $8 an hour and works between 14 and 23 hours a week.
With less than $200 a week, he sometimes has to choose between buying food for the family and taking his kids' clothes for a wash to the laundromat. He said it's too expensive to eat at the KFC where he works so he never does. "Everything costs more. Why can't my pay go up?" Tisdale says.
In the past year, many states and cities have taken action by raising the minimum wage. This year alone, Connecticut, Maryland, Hawaii and New Jersey raised the minimum wage for workers.
Organizers see these actions as a testimonial to the success of their campaigns. The latest protests are backed by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations, a federation composed of 396 trade unions in 126 countries representing a combined 12 million workers.
Earlier this year, workers in three states filed class-action lawsuits against McDonald's alleging widespread and systematic wage theft.
Labor experts say there have been scattered attempts to organize in previous decades, but very little in the fast food industry has stuck. Many say that's because there is a high labor turnover rate in the industry.
In its latest annual report, McDonald's acknowledged that the threat of strikes could potentially have an impact on earnings and sales.
Plight of the fast food worker
In a statement, McDonald's said it offers "part-time and full-time employment, benefits and competitive pay based on the local marketplace and job level." The company, and its franchisees, "are committed to providing our respective employees with opportunities to succeed."
McDonald's also said that about 80% of its restaurants globally are independently owned and operated by small business owners.