The Fight for $15 campaign came out in force Thursday night to protest against McDonald's, Bank of America and Illinois billionaire Ken Griffin. Progress Illinois provides highlights from the downtown demonstration.
Hundreds of low-wage workers and their allies marched and rallied in downtown Chicago Thursday evening to push for a $15 minimum wage.
Five protesters were taken into police custody after they went onto the roof of the Best Western River North Hotel, across the street from Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's, and dropped a banner off the side of the building. The banner read, "McJobs Cost Us All!"
Members of the Fight for $15 campaign began their protest outside a luxury high rise off the Magnificent Mile where Illinois billionaire Ken Griffin lives. From there, they marched with a mariachi band in tow to a Bank of America branch before arriving at Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's.
They picked those locations because Bank of America and Griffin's hedge fund, Citadel LLC, are McDonald's shareholders.
"Ken Griffin is the wealthiest man in Illinois," said Chicago McDonald's worker Angel Mitchell. "He supports poverty wages because (his hedge fund) has $132 million invested in McDonald's. That's a problem."
Griffin is also a major campaign donor to Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has yet to reach an agreement with Democratic legislative leaders on a state budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which began more than nine months ago.
"What's really powerful about the action today is it's showing the linkages and connections between these various issues and players -- the fact that Ken Griffin is the richest man in Illinois and not paying his fair share at all in terms of taxes, and the roll that that's playing in the state budget crisis," said Amisha Patel with the Grassroots Collaborative, one of many groups represented at the Fight for $15 action.
As for Bank of America, it is a key investor in McDonald's and has also collected "hundreds of millions of dollars" from the cash-strapped state of Illinois through interest rate swaps, Patel explained.
"We see how these are all linked to the fight for corporate accountability with McDonald's and the Fight for $15 and a union," she said. "Really, what we're doing today is showing that this isn't a single issue just on McDonald's. We understand the connections, and we're organizing and marching to show the public what the connections are here."
Check out scenes from the protest, including comments from Dominique Bouie, a warehouse worker who makes McDonald's McCafe cups:
Members of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless also stood in solidarity with the striking workers.
"Many people don't realize that minimum wage workers are maybe one or two paychecks away from being homeless, and right now with all the cuts in Springfield and not passing a budget," homeless shelters and other providers have had to reduce services, said the coalition's Moe Zayed.
"We're here standing in solidarity to express the fact that we're not gonna take it anymore," he added. "We need something to change."
Adeline Bracey with Action Now spoke to America's growing income inequality.
"The millionaires are getting richer. The poor are getting poorer," she said. "There's such a gap between the bottom and the top, and we want to close that gap. And $15 an hour is not an awful lot. That's not really a living wage when you're talking about people that have large families, having to buy food, clothing, pay for rent. Rents constantly going up. Bus fares going up. Everything is up -- except the minimum wage."
Low-wage workers protested Thursday for a $15 minimum wage and union rights in over 300 U.S. cities and 40 countries, representing the largest Fight for $15 strike since the campaign began in 2012.
Many organizations have thrown their support behind the Fight for $15 campaign, including the Sierra Club. The environmental group released this statement earlier today in support of the striking workers:
The Sierra Club is proud to stand in solidarity with low-wage workers because a fight for a livable wage is the exact same fight for our environment. Often, the industries that pollute the most pay the least. Workers are paying the price: people living in low income neighborhoods are more likely to live with the effects of polluted air. Low income families, especially women and children of color, are disproportionately affected by environmental toxins.
Women can't break a glass ceiling they can't reach. Low-wage workers are more often than not women, who are paid less than men doing the same job, and many of which have families to provide for. These women, while overrepresented in lower-wage occupations, are paid less than men in the very same occupations. Women of color are paid even less.
Corporations are making massive profits, but the toxic shortcuts they're taking to pad their pocketbooks are causing hardworking families to live without the ability to cover their basic needs like food, health care, child care, rent and transportation, all while bearing the brunt of their employer's corporate pollution.
Prior to the downtown Chicago protest, Fight for $15 activists staged a series of demonstrations across the city. Click through for our coverage of today's earlier actions.