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Labor plans fast-food protests for US, overseas

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm •  Published: May 6, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Labor organizers say they're planning another day of fast-food protests next week, with coordinated actions expected in the U.S. and more than 30 countries this time around.

Union representatives from countries including Argentina, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand and Panama gathered in New York this week to share tips and strategize for the demonstrations slated to take place on May 15. Organizers plan to announce the global actions at a news conference outside a McDonald's in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

The protests calling for pay of $15 an hour in the U.S. have gained national media attention since they began in New York in late 2012. The push is getting financial and organizational support from the Service Employees International Union — which has more than 2 million members — and has served as an important backdrop as President Barack Obama and Democratic lawmakers seek to raise the federal minimum wage in an election year.

Although the effort to raise the federal minimum wage in Congress seems unlikely to succeed, several states and localities have raised their minimum wages over the past year or so.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was last raised in 2009. That translates to about $15,000 a year, assuming an employee works 40 hours a week.

The protests also come at a time when the widening income gap has become a pressing issue. Since 1980, income has grown the most for top earners, while falling for the poorest 20 percent of families. Advocates for raising the minimum wage say a growing number of people in low-paying jobs are trying to support families.

Still, fast-food workers have historically been difficult to unionize because of the high turnover rates in the industry.

Meanwhile, turnouts for the fast-food protests over the past year have varied. In New York City, chanting demonstrators led by community leaders and local lawmakers typically flood a fast-food location for about a half hour, temporarily making it impossible for customers to enter the restaurant and place orders. Once the crowd disperses, however, restaurant operations quickly return back to normal.

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