From three blocks away, you could see the large yellow, black, and red McDonald’s sign flapping over 6th Avenue in Manhattan. At 6 a.m. last Thursday, the streets were, for the most part, deserted. But beneath this giant M, marking a 24-hour McDonald’s location, chanting, marching, and drums filled up blocks of an otherwise quiet space. People were holding sturdy red signs, white paper ones, and larger displays that required several people to hold. So many people congregated outside that they successfully dissuaded passers by from wandering in for a coffee or hash brown. This was the local instance of a world-wide day of action, during which workers in more than 150 cities and 33 countries went on strike for higher pay. Here in New York, the goal is a new $15 minimum wage and the formation of a union without retaliation.
“Going global? Where the whole world is standing up for this?” said Naquasia LeGrand, who makes minimum wage at a KFC in Brooklyn. “That never crossed my mind—not even going viral across the country. That’s amazing to me.” Later, by the time the group had moved a few blocks north, from the McDonald’s on 6th Avenue and 28th street to Herald Square, they’d gained more supporters and more attention. People from the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents the faculty and staff at the City University of New York, and the 32IU 24BJ, a union of property-service workers, had rallied many of their own in solidarity. Photographers covering the event gravitated toward a couple with three young boys in tow. People walking by took Instagrams of an impromptu dance circle.