Scenes From the Fast-Food Worker Protests Spreading Overseas

Scenes From the Fast-Food Worker Protests Spreading Overseas
A protester dressed as Ronald McDonald participates in a rally to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside a McDonald’s in Seoul on May 15
Photograph by Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo

A worker movement for higher wages in fast-food restaurants that began in New York City about a year and a half ago has now spread to cities in Asia, Europe, and Central and South America. Even a few places in New Zealand and Africa are joining the far-flung effort to boost pay. Altogether, events are planned in more than 30 countries on Thursday, according to protest organizers.

Those involved have naturally taken their message to perhaps the easiest place to publicize any global movement: social media. In New Zealand, for instance, where the minimum wage recently increased to NZ$14.25 per hour ($12.31), workers are fighting for a raise to NZ$15 as well as more stability in the number of hours worked per week. Activists eventually want to push for a “living wage” of NZ$18.40:

#FastFoodGlobal Fastfood workers fighting for secure hours in Auckland pic.twitter.com/lODPhSCcuM— Alison (@jennifer_b_art) May 15, 2014
Original Tweet

In Japan, meanwhile, union members hoisted signs reading “Fair Pay. Respect. For All Fast Food Workers” at a demonstration in Tokyo:

RT @RT_com
Not lovin’ it: Fast food workers in Tokyo protest to demand higher wages http://t.co/rEwiwH11YU pic.twitter.com/YnVkEkAb1V— RT (@RT_com) May 15, 2014
Original Tweet

In Seoul, protesters rallied outside a McDonald’s restaurant:

청년유니온 @union1030
세계패스트푸드노동자의날 Global Action in Korea "Rights and Fair Pay for All Fast Food Workers" #seoul #Korea #FastFoodGlobal pic.twitter.com/MPgRqA4yFd— 청년유니온 (@union1030) May 15, 2014
Original Tweet

Indonesia, the fourth-largest nation by population, is now “considered a ‘must-have’ market by global consumer goods companies,” reported the Financial Times. Food-service workers took the street in Bandung, a city of almost 2.4 million people:

Organize Now! @OrgNow
RT @IUFglobal: Fast Food, Furious Workers! #FastFoodGlobal Live from Bandung. Indonesia in action pic.twitter.com/dP8nlvZ2hm— Organize Now! (@OrgNow) May 15, 2014
Original Tweet

And in Manila, workers staged a flash mob during morning rush hour and sang Let It Go from the movie Frozen inside a downtown McDonald’s, according to a report on AOL.com. Below, workers are seen demonstrating outdoors:

Over 30 countries demanding higher wages and more rights for fast food workers! #FastFoodGlobal Go Philippines pic.twitter.com/NuDfQYnnRX— IUF (@IUFglobal) May 15, 2014
Original Tweet

In London, protesters demanded guaranteed hours and “better pay, better conditions, and dignity in the workplace”:

London leg of #FastFoodGlobal protests kick off outside McDonald's on Whitehall pic.twitter.com/Fob5PGtni6— NSSN (@NSSN_AntiCuts) May 15, 2014
Original Tweet

Workers in Brazil are fighting wage theft, low pay, and mistreatment of pregnant workers, reported the Guardian:

Viva la causa! @70torinoman
Porto Seguro, #Brazil is in this fight! #FastFoodGlobal Solidariedade social! pic.twitter.com/CQkg9sjjvl @adri16— Viva la causa! (@70torinoman) May 15, 2014
Original Tweet

The multicountry effort is being led by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), a federation of 396 trade unions in 126 countries, which gathered workers and union leaders last week. U.S. workers remain active, too, with protests for $15-an-hour wages staged again on Thursday, the latest in a series of one-day work actions around the country.

McDonald’s said in a statement that the chain offers “competitive pay based on the local marketplace and job level” and that its franchisees comply with local laws. “This is an important discussion that needs to take into account the highly competitive nature of the industries that employ minimum wage workers, as well as consumers and the thousands of small businesses which own and operate the vast majority of McDonald’s restaurants.”

Fast-food workers protest for better payments and conditions around the Shibuya district in Tokyo on May 15
Fast-food workers protest for better payments and conditions around the Shibuya district in Tokyo on May 15
Photograph by Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Nippon News via Corbis

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