Fast food workers strike in 30 countries over low wages

Workers are attempting to persuade employers to play them a minimum wage of $15 an hour
  • @kashmiragander

Fast food chain workers across 150 US cities and in 33 countries staged a mass strike on Thursday, in a protest against low pay.

Workers and those who joined them in solidarity targeted companies including McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, in cities from New York to Seoul, in the hope that the action would persuade companies to raise their wages to $15-an-hour (£8).

Hundreds of demonstrators in the US city of New York attempted to draw attention to their cause in the bustling city by beating drums, blowing whistles, and chanting outside a branch of pizza chain Domino’s.

The manager on duty inside said no employees from the store were participating, while a handful of customers squeezed past the protesters to get inside. Protests in Miama and Philadelphia also did not disrupt operations at targeted restaurants.

Meanwhile in Denmark, McDonald's worker Louise Marie Rantzau explained how activists had used social media to stage their protest, by taking photos outside Burger King stores.

Rantzau, who earns about $21 (£12.50) an hour, said a collective agreement with McDonald's in the country prevents workers from protesting the chain.

Fast-food workers hold placards in support to an increase of the fastfood workers minimun wage in New York

Although fast food workers are historically difficult to unionise because many work part-time hours or are teenagers who quickly move on, the demonstrations were the culmination of a campaign that started in New York City in 2012, and has been gathering pace since.

In March, three lawsuits filed in different US states accused fast food giant McDonald’s of denying workers breaks and engaging in practices that deprived employees of their rightful wages. 

Workers were referred to lawyers by union organizers, who announced protests over “wage theft” the following week.

While many customers told reporters they were not aware of the ongoing protests, the campaign has nevertheless captured national media attention at a time when the income gap between the rich and poor has widened.

In a statement, McDonald's said that the actions were not strikes and accused outside groups of "travell[ing] to McDonald's and other outlets to stage rallies.”

The company, which has more than 35,000 locations globally, said the debate over wages needed to take into account “the highly competitive nature of the industries that employ minimum wage workers.”

The National Restaurant Association which represents business called the actions "nothing more than big labour's attempt to push their own agenda."

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has also been working to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The current rate of $7.25 an hour translates to about $15,000 a year, assuming a person works 40 hours a week.