Chicago fast food workers rallied outside McDonald’s headquarters Thursday afternoon in support of union rights and a $15 minimum wage for all fast food workers.
Police detained a number of protesters, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) a congresswoman representing Chicago’s North Side.
— Jan Schakowsky (@janschakowsky) October 4, 2018
Cooks and cashiers from fast food giants McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King were supported by hospital and graduate student workers on the strike line, in addition to big-name politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) who tweeted out a copy of a letter he sent to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook.
“McDonald’s is not a poor company. Last year, it made over $5.1 billion in profits and rewarded wealthy shareholders with over $7.7 billion in dividends and stock buybacks,” Sen. Sanders wrote. “If McDonald’s can afford to give its shareholders $7.7 billion, it can afford to pay all of its workers $15 an hour.”
If Amazon and Disney can pay $15 an hour, so can McDonald's, which made $5.1 billion in profits last year.
My message to McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook: No one in America, especially those working for a profitable corporation like McDonald’s, should be living in poverty. pic.twitter.com/puBA7nSRcP
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 4, 2018
Adriana Alvarez, a McDonald’s employee in Chicago who attended Sen. Sanders’ CEOs vs Workers town hall in July, read his letter aloud through a bullhorn to the protesters.
Alvarez, a single mother, has worked at McDonald’s for eight years, yet only earns 50 cents above the starting wage and gets zero vacation days.
“I’m not asking for a mansion or a lake house — I’m asking to be able to take care of my son,” Alvarez told Sanders during the town hall. “We need $15 as a start. We need a union.”
“We’re on strike today because workers like me are under attack. We wouldn’t need to strike like this to demand better workplaces if we had a UNION to protect us on the job” Adriana Alvarez, McDonald’s worker #FightFor15 #UnionsForAll pic.twitter.com/FljQSTBSy7
— Fight For 15 Chicago (@chifightfor15) October 4, 2018
The Chicago fast food workers strike comes on the heels of similar strikes across the midwest.
Hundreds of workers in Milwaukee shut down a local McDonald’s during the lunch rush, blocking doors, and occupying the drive-thru. Eventually, the employees shut down the entire intersection.
“After 20 years of hard work, I make $9.65 an hour,” Jennifer Berry, an employee at McDonald’s told the Milwaukee Biz Times. “I am barely able to afford my rent, much less transportation to get to and from work, and groceries. Every month is a struggle just to get by.”
The day before, more than 1,000 Michigan fast food workers in Detroit and Flint walked off their jobs to demand higher wages and the right to a union.
Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic candidate running to represent Detroit in the U.S. House of Representatives, was arrested along with former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed and a handful of activists and organizers.
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) October 2, 2018
McDonald’s workers have been on an organizing roll in recent weeks with members of local Fight for $15 Women’s Committees organizing the first sexual harassment strike across 10 cities last September.
The committees were formed after McDonald’s workers filed 10 sexual harassment charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in May, with the support of Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. Members are demanding that the corporation form an anti-sexual harassment committee, hold mandatory trainings for managers and employees to ensure sexual harassment is taken seriously, establish a system for receiving and responding to complaints that is “safe and effective,” and strengthen and enforce its zero tolerance policy against harassment.
Low wages and sexual harassment are issues that could be easily resolved with the formation of a union. But McDonald’s has long resisted efforts by its workers to unionize. In 2014, the New York Times reported that Richard F. Griffin Jr., National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel, agreed there was merit in 43 claims against McDonald’s in which workers alleged McDonald’s illegally fired, threatened, or penalized workers for labor organizing.