Labor groups and fast-food workers, buoyed by the recent passage of wage increases in cities such as Los Angeles, reiterated their demand for a $15 minimum wage with a march on McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, just after noon Wednesday.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, implored the crowd to “stay strong” in their fight for higher wages and the right to unionize without repercussions. And she called upon McDonald’s to “sit down at a national bargaining table” and stop putting money in stockholders’ pockets.
Henry also signaled that the group wouldn’t necessarily be satisfied, even if their demands are met. “Even when we get $15 and a union, we will keep fighting,” she said.
Amid escalating pressure from the public, other large employers’ pay hikes and coalitions such as the SEIU’s “Fight for 15,” McDonald’s recently raised starting wages for employees at its company-owned stores by $1 per hour, a change that affects about one-tenth of McDonald’s restaurants. The company does not have the power to increase wages for employees of franchisees, McDonald’s spokesperson Heidi Barker told The Chicago Tribune, noting that it’s possible franchisees may take the company’s lead and raise employee wages.
Protestor Tyree Johnson, 47, said he joined the Fight for $15 because he has been working for McDonald’s for 23 years and is still living paycheck to paycheck.
“I started working for McDonald’s when I was 24 years old back in 1992,” said Johnson, who’s employed at a downtown Chicago location. “I went from $4.25 to $8.45, and it’s not enough. I’m living paycheck to paycheck, I can’t support my family, and my hours have been cut because I’ve joined the Fight for $15.”
Activists promised Wednesday’s protest, which took place one day before McDonald’s annual stockholder meeting, would be the largest put together so far by the Fight for 15 campaign.
A smaller protest is scheduled to take place Thursday morning, during which protest leaders said a petition would be delivered to the corporate headquarters. McDonald’s asked some corporate staff to stay home during the protests to alleviate congestion, and a nearby McDonald’s restaurant was closed Wednesday and Thursday.