According to the organizers, fast food employees in 33 different countries are planning to take to the streets on the ides of May, protesting for $15/hour wages and the right to join a union (or at least not be retaliated against or fired for asking for these things).
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of a meeting in New York City of fast food employees from around the world, organized by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF).
Here in the states there are walk-outs planned in multiple locations, with organizers citing Oakland, Raleigh, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Miami and Orlando. Globally, there will be strikes and protests in cities like Rabat, Morroco; Hong Kong; Seoul; Bangkok; Auckland; Brussels; Dublin; Rome; Buenos Aires, among many others.
Some of the protestors, especially in Europe, are not seeking to improve their own wages, but to highlight what they believe are bottom-dollar wages for workers elsewhere in the world.
“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 one Danish worker who plans to protest on May 15. “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.”
One question that has dogged these protests since they began about two years ago is whether or not the people striking outside of these locations are employees or just union members who don’t actually work at one of these chains. Detractors of the protests claim the allegedly low number of actual workers in these strikes is a sign that employees don’t agree with the protestors. Supporters of the movement say the numbers are higher than reported and that many workers are still too afraid to walk out or to be seen protesting.
For example, late last year the operator of several Domino’s franchises in NYC was accused of firing 25 employees who filed complaints with the state for being underpaid. It’s the fear of these kinds of retaliatory actions that keeps some fast food workers from voicing their opinions, claim strike organizers.