US fast food staff protests over wages spread globally
- 15 May 2014
- From the section Business
US fast food workers have joined counterparts in countries including Indonesia, France, and Brazil to stage a global walk-out in protest about wages and working conditions.
Organisers said they had planned 230 protests in 33 countries.
Fast food workers and labour organisers have been protesting at what they call "abusive employment practices" since late 2012.
They are demanding a "liveable" wage of $15 per hour in the US.
In a statement, the National Restaurant Association, which represents fast food business such as McDonalds and Burger King, said: "A dramatic increase to labor costs like the one proposed... is not the comprehensive solution to income inequality - it will only hurt business owners' ability to create entry level jobs."
Currently, the federally-mandated minimum wage in the US is $7.25 per hour, although 38 states have set higher floors.
US President Obama has pushed for a raise of the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, but that move has been blocked by Congressional Republicans.
Meanwhile, in places like Seattle and Washington, labour organisers have tried to a different tactic, putting "liveable wage" legislation to a vote.
Two states- Hawaii and Minnesota - have also raised their minimum wage.
However, opponents of a minimum wage rise often cite a study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimating the law would result in the loss of about 500,000 jobs.
But the same study also anticipated that as many as 16 million poor workers would see a substantial pay rise.
Outside a Domino's pizza chain in the middle of Manhattan, around 150 protests were gathered at midday.
Chanting "it makes no sense", they said they were there to protest about not just their low wages, but rising income inequality.
Shantel Walker has been working as a manager at a Papa John's pizza chain since 1999, and she currently makes $8.50 per hour.
She says that is not significantly more than the $7.25 she was getting just a few years earlier - and she insists it is certainly not enough to live on in Brooklyn, New York, where her monthly rent is $500.
"It's disgusting - sometimes I don't even bring home $10,000 a year and [some people] make $10,000 an hour," she told the BBC.
Omar Freckleton, a McDonald's employee, said he currently makes $8 per hour - not enough, he said, to support his daughter. However, when he asked for more work, his hours were instead cut.
"Sometimes you feel like you want to quit but you can't quit because you've got bills to pay," he said.
In a statement, McDonald's said: "McDonald's respects our employees' right to voice their opinions and to protest lawfully and peacefully."