Even as a gusty rain storm blew through the Chicago area, hundreds of protesters took to the streets Thursday – and 50 of them were arrested — as they railed against low wages at fast-food restaurants and called for a national minimum wage increase to $15 an hour.
The protests, which included workers blocking traffic on major roadways in acts of civil disobedience, were underway Thursday in Chicago and Cicero, mirroring a national “Fight for 15” movement. Groups pushing to boost the minimum wage complain of income disparity where corporate leaders make massive profits but their workers need government assistance to get by.
In separate actions, 19 people were taken into custody outside of a McDonald’s restaurant at 87th and State streets, while later, 31 people were arrested in the town of Cicero at 29th Street and Cicero Avenue. Hundreds of workers at fast-food restaurants across the country walked off their jobs in protest.
Buses filled with protesters arrived in a parking lot about an hour before the action got underway in Cicero. The protest massed in an area clustered with fast-food eateries, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Eventually, several dozen people sat cross-legged in the middle of a typically-busy Cicero Avenue, blocking traffic in both directions, as hundreds of other protesters remained closer to the sidewalk and sang: “We shall not be moved.” They waved flags and chanted, in English and in Spanish, calling for a higher minimum wage in Illinois and elsewhere.
“It’s a lot to survive off of $8.25 when you have a child and you have to pay rent,” said Brandon Askew, 26, of Engelwood, who has a four-year-old daughter. “The most difficult part about it is not knowing where my next dollar is going to come from.”
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. and Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) were among the elected officials who attended the Cicero rally.
“Next time you walk into a McDonald’s, look into the faces of the people who work there. You’re going to see the faces of moms and dads,” Gutierrez said. “For many people this is a permanent job.”