McDonald’s shut down its worldwide headquarters this week ahead of protests that brought 10,000 underpaid workers into the streets in Chicago and outside the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois. Fast food workers were joined by home care, child care, airport and university workers from the Fight for $15, all demanding minimum pay of $15 per hour and union representation.
Cooks and cashiers joined protesters on a strike picket line outside the company’s flagship Rock N Roll McDonald’s in downtown Chicago on Wednesday, bringing the lunchtime rush to a standstill, then marched to McDonald’s headquarters through a pouring rain along with thousands of workers from across the U.S. as well as four other countries in a display of the Fight for $15 campaign’s now-global reach.
“We cook and serve those all-day breakfasts that are making McDonald’s millions and millions, but we can’t feed our own families without turning to food stamps,” said Angel Mitchell, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago who was among the marchers. “We’re coming to McDonald’s headquarters to tell the company and its shareholders it’s time workers shared in the company’s good fortune. We can’t wait any longer for $15/hour and union rights and we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure our voices are heard.”
Despite torrential downpours, thousands camped out on McDonald’s headquarters grounds overnight, and rallied outside the next day during the company’s shareholder meeting.
“The rain, wind and hail couldn’t stop us,” said Flavia Cabral, a McDonald’s worker from New York City who camped out overnight. “If McDonald’s didn’t know it before, they must know it now: we are never going to give up until workers all across the country win $15 and union rights.”
“McDonald’s low wages set the standard for employers across the economy,” said Sepia Coleman, a Memphis-based home care worker who is paid just $8.25 an hour after 20 years on the job. “McDonald’s is making money hand over fist right now, but it refuses to pay its fair share. McDonald’s can afford to do better for workers in Memphis and can help lift communities across the country by paying $15 an hour and respecting its workers’ right to a union.”
The protests this week were the largest ever at McDonald’s headquarters.
Since November 2012, when the Fight for $15 movement launched its first fast food strikes in New York City, nearly 17 million workers in the U.S. have won wage increases, including 10 million workers who will see their hourly pay rise to $15 per hour. Most of those 10 million are workers in New York and California, the first states to raise their minimum wages to $15.
A bill to raise the statewide minimum wage in New Jersey to $15 by 2021 passed the Assembly on Thursday and is headed to the Senate. Supporters expect it to pass, but then be vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie. If that occurs, lawmakers say they will ensure the measure is placed on the ballot in 2017.
McDonald’s, meanwhile, is under mounting pressure to raise pay, agree to workers’ call to organize a union, and then bargain collectively with the workers’ representatives. Just days ago, workers who are members of the Fight for $15 announced they will urge fast food workers to vote to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and push for bargaining rights with fast food employers.
The company is also coming under fire from regulators and elected officials worldwide over a range of harmful business practices, including tax avoidance and anti-competitive practices. The worldwide scrutiny comes on top of an ongoing case against McDonald’s being pursued in the U.S. by the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel charging that McDonald’s is responsible for labor law violations committed against its employees fighting for $15 an hour and union rights.