The fast food worker mobilizations that have rocked the United States since late 2012 are headed for the international stage, with walk-outs and protests slated to sweep McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, and other restaurants in 33 countries on six continents next week, workers announced Wednesday.
Gathered outside of a McDonald’s restaurant in New York City, dozens of fast food workers hailing from countries including Hong Kong, Panama, New Zealand, France, and Denmark proclaimed that May 15 will be a global day of action for a higher wage and the right to organize without retaliation or abuse.
"No matter where they live, fast-food workers want fair pay and rights on the job," said McDonald’s worker Frances Cabrera, who plans to protest in Argentina. "In Argentina, we've won some rights, but still struggle to get by on low pay."
The May 15 protests, which organizers say will sweep 150 cities, were planned when fast food workers and local unions from dozens of countries across the globe gathered in New York City for a conference organized by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)—a federation comprised of 396 trade unions in 126 countries representing 12 million workers.
The campaign to organize fast food workers has been heavily backed by the Service Employees International Union, which has more than 2 million members.
U.S.-based workers are calling for a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union, while international participants are demanding fair wages and workplace rights, with the specifics varying by location.
“We’ve gone global!” said Ashley Cathey, a McDonald’s worker from Memphis, Tennessee. “It’s amazing that our fight for $15 and a union has inspired workers around the world to come together. Our campaign is growing and gaining momentum, and the highly-profitable fast-food industry needs to know we won’t stop fighting until our voices are heard.”