Progress Illinois provides highlights from the first of several Fight for $15 protests happening in Chicago this week ahead of McDonald's annual shareholder meeting.
Several hundred fast food workers and their allies rallied outside Chicago's Rock N' Roll McDonald's Wednesday afternoon to kick off two days of protests targeting the burger giant the week of its annual shareholder meeting.
Fast food workers from Chicago and across the country are promising to stage a massive march this evening at McDonald's Oak Brook headquarters and say they will show up by the thousands Thursday to protest the company's shareholder meeting.
"We're taking the Fight for $15 directly to the doorsteps of McDonald's," said Chicago fast food worker Angel Mitchell, 26. "Their shareholder meeting is tomorrow, and we just want to let them know that they cannot ignore us."
The low-wage workers with the Fight for $15 movement want a $15 minimum wage and union rights. They are also urging the fast food giant to stop alleged wage theft practices.
The scene outside the Rock N' Roll McDonald's was noisy as a mariachi band played over chants of, "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Poverty wages have got to go!" and "I believe that we will win!" Activists toted signs reading, "Fight for $15" and "McJobs Cost Us All."
Check out scenes from the protest:
Wednesday's action comes more than three years after the fast food industry was first targeted by striking employees in New York City, who set off the Fight for $15 movement.
After facing countless Fight for $15 protests, McDonald's began raising wages last July to $1 above the local minimum wage at its corporate-owned restaurants. The company expects average wages at those stores to hit at least $10 an hour by the end of 2016. But since franchisees own the majority of McDonald's restaurants, many workers are left out of the pay increase.
Shaun Goodwin, 38, traveled to Chicago from Little Rock, Arkansas to protest for higher wages. A member of the Little Rock Fight for $15, Goodwin has worked at McDonald's for the past two years and makes $8.50 an hour.
"We're trying to get $15 and a union. Fifteen dollars is a livable wage," he said.
A $15 minimum wage equals an annual salary of about $31,000, roughly the same as the average cost of keeping a federal inmate in prison for one year.
"You're saying I'm more valuable to the country incarcerated than I am working," Goodwin said. "So that's an issue ... We're not saying that we don't appreciate our jobs. But we wish our jobs appreciated us also."
Fight for $15 activists are waging protests the same week former McDonald's USA CEO Ed Rensi said it would be cheaper for fast food establishments to hire robots than pay workers a $15 minimum wage.
"I was at the National Restaurant Show yesterday and if you look at the robotic devices that are coming into the restaurant industry, it's cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour bagging french fries," he told Fox Business.
Speaking about the push for a $15 minimum wage, Rensi said, "It's nonsense and it's very destructive and it's inflationary and it's going to cause a job loss across this country like you're not going to believe."
But Chicago McDonald's worker Kejioun Johnson, 20, said a $15 minimum wage is not asking too much from companies like McDonald's.
"For them to make billions and billions of dollars and throw us pennies, it's not fair," he said. "For (critics) to say we're greedy for asking for what we deserve, that's not right either."