The complaint does not allege wrongdoing by the Smithsonian, which contracts with three foodservice companies: McDonald’s, Restaurant Associates and Sodexo.
The Labor Department is investigating the Reagan Building’s management firm. The General Services Administration has promised to take action if the company violated federal guidelines.
Good Jobs has said it represents “an invisible army of 2 million workers” who have jobs such as greeting visitors, selling memorabilia, driving trucks and making military uniforms.
The employees who participated in Thursday’s protests work for vendors licensed at the Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History.
McDonald’s said in a statement Thursday that its franchises pay employees competitive wages, offer them “a range of benefits to meet their individual needs” and provide training opportunities to help them advance.
“Both our company and franchised-owned restaurants work hard every day to treat McDonald’s employees with dignity and respect,” the statement said.
Ed Sirhal, president of Restaurant Associates, said that his company starts its employees with a wage 75 cents above the federal minimum wage and that 42 percent of its workforce earns more than $11.00 an hour.
“Restaurant Associates is actively engaged every day with our associates in an effort to learn from them any challenges they face in their jobs and to identify how we can best address those,” Sirhal said.
Sodexo, rated by the online magazine DiversityInc as the most diverse company in the nation, said it did not have a comment.
Some economists are skeptical about the benefits of increasing the minimum wage, saying an increase could cause some companies to reduce hiring or hours.
“It’s kind of a wash or modestly beneficial,” said David Neumark, an economics professor at the University of California at Irvine who specializes in labor issues. “You end up helping some low-income people and hurting others.”
Neumark said tax credits are a more effective mechanism for bringing people out of poverty.