Chicago labor unions, organizers and workers marched through the Loop on Monday morning to demonstrate for better working conditions and higher wages. They protested Gov. Bruce Rauner’s recent veto of a bill that would have raised Illinois’ minimum wage to $15 per hour.
The rally took place after an organized walk-out and strike at a McDonald’s restaurant in the southwestern Chicago suburb of Blue Island, as well as multiple strikes at other fast food restaurants in Chicago, such as Portillo’s Hot Dogs.
McDonald’s employees across the country and in the U.K. went on strike Sept. 4 in protest of low wages and poor working conditions.
The minimum wage in Chicago is currently $11 per hour. An ordinance passed by City Council in December 2014 will raise the minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2019.
Laura Williams, a striking worker at Portillo’s and member of one of the rally’s organizing groups, Fight For $15, spoke to the crowd gathered in front of the Richard R. Thompson Center.
“Our employers don’t care about our needs,” Williams said. “They operate just like politicians with anti-union agendas.”
McDonald’s responded to the strike in a press release, highlighting the training and education programs they offer to workers.
“In recent years, we have raised pay and started offering paid time off at our company-owned restaurants,” the press release said.
McDonald’s raised its average hourly rate for workers from $9.01 to more than $10 at the end of 2016 for all company-owned restaurants.
This affected about 15 percent of the company’s workers, as most U.S. McDonald’s restaurants are franchises, according to the company’s 2016 annual report.
Williams also criticized Rauner’s controversial Aug. 25 veto.
“Governor Rauner,” she said, “You stole our wages. You stole raises from millions of Illinois workers. So guess what? You just lost our vote. You vetoed our $15, we’re going to veto you in 2018.”
The rally was attended by members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), comprised of labor unions and organizers across several industries, from fast food workers to health care professionals and educators.
Alyson Paige Warren, an adjunct professor in Loyola’s English department, attended the rally in support of SEIU’s Faculty Forward program.
“As a social justice university, it’s our job to turn out for these kinds of things to support the community,” Warren, 36, said. “But it’s also to show that [adjunct faculty] are a lot closer to being in this community than people think.”
Warren stressed the connection between adjunct faculty and the rally.
“When people think about contingent faculty, they think elbow patches and 401ks, but in reality we’re a lot closer to fast food workers than we are [to] that,” Warren said.
Loyola College of Arts and Sciences’ (CAS) non-tenured faculty voted to unionize in January 2016 and are now represented by SEIU Local 73.
CAS graduate student workers also voted to unionize in February and are also represented by SEIU Local 73.
Colette Copic, a junior environmental science major at Loyola, attended Monday’s event and saw the rally as an opportunity to unite workers in the city and on campus.
“Connecting the Loyola student worker, struggling to pay for tuition, to the worker serving their food in the cafeteria and the administrator working overtime getting all the filing done … it’s all the same struggle and there’s a lot to improve on in terms of connecting those struggles,” the 20-year-old said.