In late 2012, a group of New York City fast-food workers walked off the job for a day, not knowing that they were taking the first steps in a movement that’s now circumnavigating the globe. The unprecedented coalition of fast-food service workers workers, organized labor and community advocacy groups has gone international with its demand for higher wages and union rights under the banner #Fastfoodglobal.
As we reported last week, the city that hatched the first fast-food strikes hosted an international conference of fast-food workers and labor organizers. Yesterday the international wing of the movement debuted in about thirty countries (and more than 150 US cities) with demonstrations ranging from strikes to marches to flash mobs, massing in the tens and the hundreds, branded with slick social media messaging like worker trading cards and Hunger Games spoofs, inverted golden arches and the slogans “Low Pay is Not Okay” and “Fight for 15.”
Like the catalytic flash of Occupy Wall Street, Fast Food Forward’s seemingly sudden explosion might make it seem more like the latest media-driven campaign-of-the-moment than an organic labor uprising. But for the New Yorkers who have been mobilizing for the past year, recruiting fellow workers and coordinating campaigns with their chief sponsor, Service Employees International Union—on top of the constant struggle to scrape by on poverty wages, as Zoë Carpenter reports—the global upgrade of the movement is a taste of victory.
Naquasia LeGrand of Brooklyn, who works a cashier at a Park Slope KFC and earns about $8 an hour, reflected with amazement on how the movement has unfolded since she began campaigning in 2012. “You’re talking to somebody who was on the first strike. I can remember like it was yesterday,” she recalled in an interview with The Nation ahead of Thursday’s global strike day. “And now, knowing that it’s going global, I would have never thought… So just to see not only my country coming together, but all of the countries coming together, I mean, it’s amazing to me. It’s like ‘Oh, we don’t gotta go to war, we can come together.’”