NEW YORK (AP) — Labor organizers are turning up the heat on McDonald’s and other fast-food companies to raise worker pay, with protests set to spread to more than 30 countries Thursday.
The demonstrations build on a campaign by unions to bring attention to the plight of low-wage workers and get the public behind the idea of a $15-an-hour wage. Businesses say significant wage increases would hurt their ability to create jobs.
The protests, which began in late 2012, are being backed by the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million members. Organizers have intensified actions over the past year to keep the issue in the spotlight. In March, for instance, protests called attention to labor practices they say deprive workers of their rightful wages, such as the denial of breaks and overtime pay.
The campaign has captured national media attention at a time when the gap between the rich and poor has widened, and pay for CEOs has come under greater scrutiny. It also comes as President Barack Obama works to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The current rate of $7.25 an hour, which was last raised in 2009, translates to about $15,000 a year for a full-time job.
Protest turnouts have varied widely in the U.S., and the actions planned for overseas Thursday also differed depending on the country.
Last week, workers and union representatives from countries including Argentina, China, El Salvador, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom had met in New York City to strategize for the first day of global actions. The meeting was led by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.
In a statement, the National Restaurant Association called the actions “nothing more than big labor’s attempt to push their own agenda.”
The industry group said that rather than “demonizing” companies, the focus should instead be on “increased access to education and job training opportunities.”