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Fast-food workers strike in US for pay, union rights

Fast-food workers in Miami and New York went on strike on Thursday to demand pay hikes and the right to unionise in a protest also observed in other cities around the world.

MIAMI: Fast-food workers in Miami and New York went on strike on Thursday to demand pay hikes and the right to unionise in a protest also observed in other cities around the world.

An organiser in Miami, Muhammed Malik, said protests were called in 130 cities in more than 33 countries, although in some places they appeared sparsely attended.

In the United States, dozens of workers went on strike for several hours in fast-food restaurants in Miami, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston, organisers said.

In New York, where the protest movement began in November 2012, about 100 demonstrators gathered in the rain outside a pizza chain after similar demonstrations outside McDonald's outlets in the city.

They wore T-shirts with the slogan "McStrike" or "stick together for US$15." They also carried signs saying, "Fair pay, respect for our rights."

They are demanding that pay be doubled to US$15 an hour and that they be allowed to join unions.

"My American dream is a dream of slavery," said Selmira Wilson, a 33-year-old Nicaraguan who arrived in the United States three years ago.

She said the US$7.99 an hour she makes at McDonald's isn't enough to support her three children.

"My son works as a cashier at McDonald's. My son is 16 years old. We make a pittance. I have to work another job at night cleaning offices to be able to support my home," said Wilson, who didn't go to work Thursday at a McDonald's in downtown Miami.

About 50 people carrying signs with their demands marched through the streets of Miami until they reached a Wendy's, chanting "What do we want? A raise! When do we want it? Now!"

"I'm tired of making a poverty wage," said Oscar Rivera, a worker from the Wendy's store who was on strike.

He told reporters the US$7.93 he makes an hour is "not enough. I have to pay bills, help my mother, my family."

Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a McDonald's spokeswoman, defended the fast-food giant, saying it offered competitive pay and adding those workers taking part in the strikes would be allowed to return to their posts.

"This is an important discussion that needs to take into account the highly competitive nature of the industries that employ minimum wage workers, as well as consumers and the thousands of small businesses which own and operate the vast majority of McDonald's restaurants," she said.

"To right-size the headlines, the events taking place are not strikes. Outside groups have travelled to McDonald's and other outlets to stage rallies."

In other parts of the world, fast-food protests were more limited, with only dozens going on strike in Geneva or London. In some cities like Paris, fast-food workers only announced a day of solidarity.

In Italy, the three main unions called for a strike at fast-food restaurants for Friday, and the largest job action was expected in Milan, a union source said.

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