November 10, 2014
By Stephanie West
Washington DC – McDonald’s workers from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will travel to eight countries on three continents beginning Monday with the goal of enlisting fast-food workers, unions and elected officials in support of the global movement for higher pay and union rights.
“We’re a global movement now,” said South America bound Dora Peña, a 50-year old mother who has worked as a custodian and a cook at a Chicago McDonald’s for eight years, is paid $8.65 an hour and relies on public assistance to support her young daughter. “This fast-food worker movement is teaching a lot of people like me that we can speak up for ourselves, that we have rights, and that we deserve more for our families. We’re eager to take that lesson and share it with workers overseas.”
The growth of the global movement comes as international markets become more and more important to the bottom line of fast-food companies like McDonald’s. Due to flagging domestic sales, McDonald’s growth depends almost entirely on expansion overseas. One of the company’s major goals, stated on a 2013 Q1 earnings call, is to “broaden accessibility to brand McDonald’s around the world.”
Today, nearly 60% of the company’s 35,000 stores are outside the United States, and the company earns nearly 70% of its revenues and more than half of its operating profit from its international operations. It is the dominant fast-food player in Europe, Latin America and Japan.
The workers’ trip—organized 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—is just the latest indication that the Fight for $15, which launched in New York City nearly two years ago, has gone global. It comes just months after workers from dozens of countries got together in New York City for the first-ever global fast-food workers meeting. Following the meeting, workers in 33 countries organized protest actions in support of striking fast-food workers across the United States.
“Whether you’re in Los Angeles, Tokyo, or Manila, we’re all fighting the same battles for better pay, union rights, and respect on the job,” said Asia bound Moses Brooks, a 23-year-old cashier and cook from Riverside, California who is paid just $9 after three years on the job and relies on food stamps to get by. “This trip is about learning from each other, strengthening the ties between American fast-food workers and our colleagues abroad, and building our movement globally.”