NEW YORK - Fast food workers around the U.S., energized by past protests and fed up with low wages, erratic hours, no benefits and management wage theft, plan to take their protests global on May 15 in their latest one-day walkout.
Demonstrations are planned for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and 147 other U.S. cities and also on five other continents, organizers from New York City-based Fast Food Nation told a May 7 press conference in midtown Manhattan.
The Service Employees support Fast Food Nation. Fast Food's leaders met with leaders of the International Union of Food, Agricultural and Restaurant Workers - a federation of 126 unions worldwide - to discuss strategy the week before the press conference.
The object of the protests is two-fold: To shame the employers - McDonald's, Burger King, Yum! Brands, KFC and others - into paying U.S. workers a living wage of $15 hourly, and to attain the right to organize without employer interference.
The past protests have had some impact. They led Democratic President Barack Obama to issue an executive order mandating that any fast food restaurant in a federal facility must, to get its contract renewed, pay workers a minimum wage of $10.10 hourly. Obama's own Navy Department, however, is protesting his order for the increase. It wants the Labor Department not to enforce the hike on Navy bases or PXs.
Elsewhere, the protests, plus a victorious local referendum in a suburb, led Seattle's new mayor to back a $15 hourly wage for fast food workers there. And McDonald's recently admitted, in a required federal financial filing, that the protests could impact its future earnings.
Past protests also led the CEO of Subway, the largest U.S. fast food chain in numbers of outlets, to reverse course on May 7 and support an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 hourly. Thousands of his workers now make that federal minimum of $7.25 hourly. Obama and organized labor have been campaigning to raise it to $10.10 by 2016 and then index it to inflation. Adamant GOP congressional opposition has killed the bill so far.
"I'm not concerned," CEO Fred DeLuca told CNBC. "Over the years, I've seen so many of these wage increases. I think it's normal. It won't have a negative impact hopefully, and that's what I tell my workers.
"I personally think that if I were in charge of the government, I would index the minimum wage to inflation so that way everybody knows what they can count on," DeLuca added.
Other U.S. protests are scheduled for Philadelphia, Miami, Orlando, Sacramento, St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Oakland and Detroit, among other cities. Protests abroad are planned for May 15 in Karachi, Casablanca, London, Sao Paulo, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Geneva and elsewhere. On May 16, workers want to shut down McDonald's in Rome, Milan and Venice.
Photo: Nick Ut/AP