Fast-food workers in the Los Angeles-area joined protests under way in New York, Chicago and Detroit, with the goal of creating massive walkouts in a push for higher wages.
Participating workers, which represent a tiny fraction of the industry, are asking for $15 an hour.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was last raised in 2009. In California, it's $8 an hour and was last raised in 2008.
At a Burger King in South Los Angeles, about two dozen workers were picketing outside the restaurant early Thursday morning. They held signs with messages: “$15 is fair” and “eight is not enough.” They chanted: "Make our wages supersized."
At 7 a.m., there were no customers in the restaurant and only one was seen getting food in the drive-thru. The restaurant closed shortly thereafter.
By about 7:30 a.m., the protesters had left and the restaurant reopened. They planned to return later in the morning.
How much of an impact the labor actions will have on businesses is not clear.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in an interview with the Associated Press the strikes by fast-food workers show the need to raise the minimum wage.
Perez is leading the push by President Barack Obama to boost the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour. Congress has not acted on the proposal.
Perez compared the recent protests to the 1963 March on Washington, which sought a national minimum wage to give workers better living standards.
He said that for too many people in minimum-wage jobs, "the rungs on the ladder of opportunity are feeling further and further apart."
McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. said that they don't make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate the majority of their U.S. restaurants.
For the restaurants it does own, McDonald's said in a statement that pay starts at minimum wage but the range goes higher, depending on the employee's position and experience level. It said that raising entry-level wages would mean higher overall costs, which could result in higher prices on menus.
"That would potentially have a negative impact on employment and business growth in our restaurants, as well as value for our customers," the company said in a statement.
In New York, about 300 to 400 protesters marched and flooded inside a McDonald's near the Empire State Building. Shortly after the demonstration, however, the restaurant seemed to be operating normally and a few customers said they hadn't heard of the movement. The same was true at a McDonald's a few blocks away.
This story has been updated.