At a rally at a Manhattan McDonald’s, fast food workers on May 7 announced that they would be holding a one-day strike on May 15.
The fast food workers are demanding that their pay be raised to $15 an hour and that employers respect their right to organize and join unions.
Strikes will take place in 150 US cities and support demonstrations will take place around the world.
The announcement of the strike came at the conclusion of an international fast food workers’ meeting convened by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers (IUF).
“The Fight for 15 in the US has caught the attention of workers around the world in a global fast-food industry where workers have recently been mobilizing,” said IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald. “It has added further inspiration and led them to join together internationally in a fight for higher pay and better rights on the job. This is just the beginning of an unprecedented international fast-food worker movement-and this highly profitable global industry better take note.”
“We’ve gone global!” said Ashley Cathey, a McDonald’s worker from Memphis at the Manhattan rally. “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.”
After six years on the job, Cathey is still making $7.25 an hour.
Josh Eidelson reports in Salon that fast food workers in St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Oakland, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, who last year staged successful walkouts, will be joined on the picket lines by their counterparts in Philadelphia, Miami, Orlando, Sacramento, and scores of other US cities.
Support demonstrations will take place in India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, El Salvador, the Philippines, Italy, Brazil, Thailand, Pakistan, Ireland, Morocco, Malawi, Korea, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Panama.”
At the Manhattan rally, Marie Rantzau, who works for McDonald’s in Denmark and belongs to an IUF affiliated union said that she was surprised to hear that McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants in the US were paid such low wages.
“In Denmark, McDonald’s pays me $21 an hour and respects our union, so I was surprised when I heard workers in the US had to fight so hard for just $15 and better rights,” said Rantzau. “Fast-food companies need to treat the people who make and serve their food with the same respect everywhere and workers in Denmark are committed to supporting the workers’ cause until that happens.”
The May 15 strike is the latest in a series of actions by fast food workers to win a decent wage and respect on the job.
That effort has led to some victories.
After last year’s strikes by fast food workers in Seattle, the city’s new mayor formed a commission to draft a city ordinance that would raise the city’s minimum wage.
On May 1, Mayor Ed Murray announced that the city would be raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. The raise will be implemented incrementally over the next seven years.
The City of San Francisco is also considering a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour.
For years, the fast food industry has justified its low pay by arguing that most of its employees are young people working part-time without the responsibilities that go along with raising families.
But if that were ever true, it certainly isn’t now.
According to the National Employment Law Project, most of the jobs created since the Crash of 2008 are low wage jobs, and the fast food industry is the source of many if not most of these jobs.
The fast food worker today is most likely to be an adult, many of whom have family responsibilities.
They are people like Eduardo Shoy, 58, who works two jobs including one at KFC in Philadelphia.
“Living on $7.25 (the current minimum wage), you cannot do it,” said Shoy to CNN.