Fast food worker strikes planned in 150 cities

NEW YORK - The fast-food worker strikes are expanding to more U.S. cities and going global.

Workers in up to 150 cities across the country are planning to strike on May 15, according to labor organizers.

The movement is also headed overseas, with plans for workers to join protests in 33 countries.

On Wednesday, the workers announced the protests outside a McDonald's in New York City, and delivered a letter that called on the fast food giant to raise wages and respect workers' rights worldwide.

The protest movement, which originated in 2012 in New York, last year spread to about 100 cities, including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and Memphis.

Workers from fast food giants like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Yum! Brands, owner of KFC, have been walking off their jobs, calling on employers to pay them a minimum wage of $15 an hour and allow them to form unions without retaliation.

Currently, the median pay for the fast food workers across the country is just over $9 an hour, or about $18,500 a year. That's roughly $4,500 lower than Census Bureau's poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.

In the past year, many states and cities have taken action by raising the minimum wage. This year alone, Connecticut, Maryland, Hawaii and New Jersey raised the minimum wage for workers.

Organizers see these actions as a testimonial to the success of their campaigns. The latest protests are backed by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations, a federation composed of 396 trade unions in 126 countries representing a combined 12 million workers.

Earlier this year, workers in three states filed class-action lawsuits against McDonald's alleging widespread and systematic wage theft.

Labor experts say there have been scattered attempts to organize in previous decades, but very little in the fast food industry has stuck. Many say that's because there is a high labor turnover rate in the industry.

In its latest annual report, McDonald's acknowledged that the threat of strikes could potentially have an impact on earnings and sales.

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