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Fast-food worker strike about to go global

Fast food workers and activists protest outside of a McDonald's restaurant on March 18, 2014 in Oakland, California.
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Fast food workers and activists protest outside of a McDonald's restaurant on March 18, 2014 in Oakland, California.

The fast-food worker movement for higher pay is about to go global.

Workers from dozens of countries on six continents are joining the push for higher pay and worker rights, it was announced Wednesday at a press conference outside a McDonald's restaurant in Midtown Manhattan by Fast Food Forward, which represents U.S. fast-food workers.

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The group announced nationwide strike plans for May 15 — a date which mirrors the $15 per hour pay they are demanding. On that same date, workers from dozens of countries on six continents will hold protests at McDonald's, Burger King and KFC outlets. It is not known how many workers will strike, but thousands of the nation's estimated 4 million fast-food workers are expected to take part in the one-day strike.

"We've gone global," said Ashley Cathey, a McDonald's worker from Memphis, Tenn., who makes $7.75 an hour after six years on the job. "Our fight has inspired workers around the world to come together."

For the fast-food industry, this seems to be the issue that just won't go away. It's expected to be front-and-center later this month when McDonald's hosts it annual shareholders meeting on May 22, in Oak Brook, Ill. While not specifically addressing fast-food workers, President Obama has called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, and earlier this year signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for individuals working on new federal service contracts.

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Earlier this week, workers and union leaders from dozens of countries met for the first global meeting of fast-food workers, organized by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations, a federation comprised of 396 trade union in 126 countries representing 12 million workers.

In the U.S. strikes are expected to include the first walkouts in Philadelphia, Sacramento, Miami and Orlando. Outside the U.S., the protests are expected to include protests in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America and Central America.

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Some of the foreign protesters say they are taking action specifically in sympathy with U.S. workers. Louise Marie Rantzau, who is a McDonald's worker in Denmark, says she makes $21 an hour. She says she was surprised to hear U.S. workers have to fight so hard to make $15 an hour, and she says is "committed" to supporting their cause.

—By Bruce Horovitz, USA Today

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