On Thursday, fast-food workers in more than 30 countries across six continents will take coordinated action on an unprecedented scale. In the United States, they will walk off their jobs in 150 cities — the largest strike ever. Workers around the world will join these protests in 80 cities.
The protestors are set to take over a McDonald’s during lunchtime rush hour in Belgium; hold flash-mobs at McDonald’s restaurants across the Philippines, and conduct a teach-in at McDonald’s headquarters in New Zealand.
The spread of the fast-food movement to the global stage is notable for the speed at which it has happened. What began as a single strike in New York City in November 2012, with roughly 200 workers participating, has in 18 months spread across the country and now across national borders. The efforts of fast-food workers have captured the nation’s attention, been featured in President Barack Obama’s speeches on inequality and inspired local elected officials to raise minimum wages.
The worldwide reach of the movement spells trouble for fast-food corporations. The sight of Japanese and Indian workers joining their counterparts in the U.S. protest should leave these corporations shuddering.
While U.S. fast-food sales are stagnant or declining, revenues overseas are surging. The industry’s international footprint has increased dramatically in recent decades into a global profusion of U.S. fast-food restaurants.