Fast Food Forward, an advocacy group for fast food workers based in New York, joined by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other groups, is spearheading a weeklong series of strikes at fast food establishments, highlighting worker demands for a $15 minimum wage and the right to unionize without fear of retaliation.

The first strike took place today in New York City. Further actions are scheduled for Chicago, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Detroit and other cities.

For the past 14 years, the restaurant industry has created jobs at a faster pace than the rest of the economy, but workers in the industry remain mired in low-wage situations with earnings averaging between $150 and $350 a week, according to the New York Times.

"A lot of the workers are living in poverty, you know, not being able to afford to put food on the table or take the train to work," Fast Food Forward director Jonathan Westin told CBS New York. "The workers are striking over the fact that they can’t continue to maintain their families on the wages they’re being paid in the fast-food industry."