mcdonald's, strike, protest, fair labor

There’s something in the air tonight, but it’s probably not love. With major protests ongoing in both Thailand and Ukraine, protest seems to be going round at the moment. Even the US is getting in on it, in it’s own sort of way: this week will see a nationwide fast food worker strike, in an effort to secure wages of $15/hour for employees of companies like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. OK, so one day of limited access to cheeseburgers isn’t quite the same as violent police responses to protesters in terms of stakes, but there’s clearly some unrest going around the place.

The Ukraine has seen mass protests by pro-Europe demonstrators, calling for the impeachment of President Viktor Yanukovych after his refusal to sign an EU trade deal. Last weekend’s demonstrations saw 50,000-100,000 protesters gather, and this weekend’s actions were of a similar scale. Today a no-confidence motion from the opposition was defeated, falling 40 votes short of forcing the resignation of the current government, a result that’s sure to add another spark to actions in the country.

Meanwhile, Thailand is undergoing its worst political turmoil for several years, with protesters fighting for the resignation of Prime MinisterYingluck Shinawatra. They want to replace her with a ‘People’s Council’ in the hopes of ensuring fairer governmental rule, and have been lining the streets for over a week to do just that. Many schools and universities have closed and four people have died so far as part of the protests.

All of that makes an American fast food strike seem like small fry, but it’s another example of growing civil unrest. The strike in question is highlighting the inadequacy of the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, which works out at around $15,000 a year for a full-time employee. Unions and advocacy groups are hoping to see an increase in this minimum wage, but are starting by targeting employers themselves, and the fast food chains are next in the firing lines. This Thursday will see workers in 100 cities drop hair nets and cease their burger-flipping in the hopes of prompting a response from management and moving closer to higher wages.

In the aftermath of the broader protests of the Occupy movement, it seems plausible that these more targeted, specific movements and strikes are the next stage of US protests. And while it’s unlikely that the States will see anything like the current scenes in the Ukraine and Thailand any time soon, it’s hard to avoid the sense of global unrest.

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