Fast Food Labor Rights Movement Goes Global [PHOTOS]

By @angeloyoung_ on
  • 001 Boston
    Demonstrators protest outside a Burger King restaurant in Boston om Thursday, May 15, 2014. Thursday's one-day strike by fast-food workers took place in numerous countries, but the momentum was strongest in the U.S. where the movement was founded in New York City in November 2012 . Reuters
  • 002 Miami
    Maria Mejia, left, and others join in a fast food workers protest in front of a Wendy's restaurant on May 15, 2014 in Miami. The union-backed so-called Fast Food Forward movement is demanding that large fast food companies pay their workers a minimum of $15 an hour and the right to organize without retaliation. Reuters
  • 003 Chicago
    A mariachi band takes part in a protest in front of a McDonald's restaurant in Chicago on Thursday, May 15, 2014. Reuters
  • 004 Britain
    Fast food workers protest for higher wages outside a branch of McDonald's in central London on May 15, 2014. The minimum wage in the UK is $10.60 an hour for workers over the age of 21. Reuters
  • 005 Belgium
    Workers and activists from the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) rallied Thursday in front of a Brussels McDonald's outlet. The minimum wage in Belgium is $2,051 a month. @labornick on Twitter
  • 007 South Korea
    A demonstration on Thursday in front of a McDonald's in Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, part of the international one-day strike demanding higher wages from the world's largest and most profitable restaurant chains. Fast Food Global
  • 006 Tokyo
    Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers in Tokyo's Shibuya shopping and amusement district May 15, 2014. Japan's minimum wage varies by prefecture and worker population but averages about $7.55 an hour. Reuters
  • 008 Aukland
    Fast food workers and their supporters rally in front of a Auckland, New Zealand, McDonald's demanding 15 New Zealand dollars per hour. The minimum wage in the country is about $12.30. Fast Food Global
  • 009 Brasil
    In Brazil, demonstrators protested McDonald's in Brasilia as part of Thursday's globally organized one-day strike. The country's minimum wage is $329 a month. Fast Food Global
  • 009 Manila
    Protesters in Manila, Philippines, held a flash mob demonstration in a McDonald's outlet. The minimum wage in the country varies regionally, but averages about $1 an hour. Fast Food Global
1 of 10

Fast-food workers around the globe walked off the job in a coordinated one-day strike Thursday, joining their sign-bearing supporters and activists on the sidewalks in front of their establishments to demand larger paychecks from the world’s most recognized and profitable restaurant chains.

By taking the movement global, labor rights activists hope to increase pressure on these American companies, which are increasingly reliant on their operations abroad.

McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE:MCD), the largest eatery operator in the world that earned $1.2 billion in profit in the first three months of the year, has been the primary target, but the U.S.-based movement is demanding that all major fast food chains, including KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Burger King, fork over more hourly pay to their line cooks and cashiers.

Fast-food workers in the U.S. make an average of $9 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 percent more than the federal minimum wage but lower than what some states and cities require. Many fast-food workers earn less than that in some of the country’s most expensive cities, like New York, and have difficulties obtaining full-time work as companies try to avoid paying health benefits by keeping workers under 30 hours a week.

In the U.S., workers and unions are demanding a minimum hourly wage of $15 and the right to organize without retaliation. In Wisconsin on Thursday, Bloomberg News reported that about 200 people rallied at a county courthouse and marched to a nearby shopping center, while in Atlanta a Burger King closed for the day after attempting to open its doors only to customers.

Demands by fast-food workers in other countries vary. In Indonesia workers are demanding a 5-percent service charge to be distributed to employees, while in Karachi, Pakistan, a local union rallied to simply for higher pay.

On Thursday, organizers lauded the one-day strike, which they said took place in more than 150 cities in the U.S. and about 80 elsewhere. CNN reported actions in “dozens” of U.S. cities and “several” countries. Twitter users have been posting images of demonstrations from Belgium to the Philippines.

Others have taken to Twitter to deride the demand for $15 an hour, echoing the sentiment expressed by former McDonald’s CEO Ed Rensi, who told Fox News last August that the move would “absolutely” shut down 15 to 20 percent of America's small businesses.

Fast Food Forward, the main organizing group backed by the U.S.-based Service Employees International Union, says it isn’t calling for a national minimum wage hike to $15 an hour and that its target is fast-food corporations and the franchises with which they do business. In the U.S., the fast-food industry has the largest disparity between executive pay and the average incomes of their bottom-rung employees.

At the same time, the largest quick-service restaurant chains consistently pay dividends – the money they give back to shareholders who hold their stock for certain period of time as an incentive to keep holding their stakes. McDonald’s, for example, paid out $801 million in the first three months of the year, or about 66 percent of the value of its net income for the quarter. The company currently pays shareholders 81 cents per common share, up from 37.5 cents in February 2008, two months into the last U.S. recession.  

The strikes have been organized by the SEIU, which represents about 2.1 million workers, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations, based in Petit-Lancy, Switzerland, and local affiliates.

Join the Discussion