A week after thousands of fast food workers and their supporters demanding a minimum wage increase stormed the McDonald’s headquarters in a Chicago suburb, a group of Chicago alderman introduced an ordinance that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15.
Chicago becomes the third city to consider raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A committee of the Seattle City Council has approved a $15 wage increase and the full City Council will vote on the ordinance on June 2. San Francisco is also considering raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The introduction of the $15 minimum wage ordinance in Chicago was the result of a grassroots organizing effort that has been underway in Chicago for some time now.
The success of that effort was on display last week when more that 2,000 McDonald’s workers and their supporters showed up near the McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, 19 miles from downtown Chicago.
The demonstrators, 325 of whom were wearing their McDonald’s uniforms, carried signs reading, “We Are Worth More” and “My Union My Voice.”
McDonald’s with a low wage work force of nearly 860,000 is the third largest low wage employer in the US.
The average wage of a McDonald’s restaurant worker is $7.73 an hour. The average wage for a McDonald’s chief executive is $9,200 an hour.
The demonstrators said that they were at the McDonald’s headquarters just ahead of the annual board meeting because they were frustrated by McDonald’s reluctance to address the poverty wages that it pays most of it workers.
“As workers, we went on strike, we talked to other workers, we’ve had petitions signings,” said Janah Bailey, a McDonald’s workers, to Chicago’s Channel 7 News. “We’ve done all we can; we requested meetings with the general managers. My presence today is saying that I’m willing to take it up a notch.”
The demonstrators then marched onto the McDonald’s campus where they were met by police in riot gear.
After the police tried to get demonstrators to leave, 130 were arrested for criminal trespass.
More than 100 of those arrested were McDonald’s workers.
Their supporters included clergy and trade unionists.
Some of those supporters including Mary Kay Henry, President of SEIU, and William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP and the state’s Moral Majority Movement, were also arrested.
“I was arrested because I want McDonald’s workers to know that 2.1 million members of SEIU — home care workers, child care workers, adjunct professors, security officers, hospital workers and many others — proudly stand with them,” said Henry in a statement about her arrest.
Earlier in May, Chicago fast food workers joined other fast food workers in 150 US cities in a one-day strike demanding that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour.
The actions at McDonald’s headquarters, the strikes, and other work done by fast food workers and their supporters caught the attention of nine Chicago alderman who announced on May 28 that they had filed an ordinance raising the Chicago minimum wage.
The proposed ordinance would require companies whose annual revenue exceeds $50 million to pay at least $12.50 an hour and within a year raise their wages to at least $15 an hour.
Small and medium-sized businesses would have more time to meet the $15 an hour minimum.
Alderman Joe Moreno told the Chicago Sun Times that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would increase Chicago business activity by $616 million and create 5,350 jobs.
Businesses were quick to express their opposition to raising the minimum wage arguing that increasing wages would hurt business.
Moreno said that when the minimum wage has been raised in the past it always helps the broader economy.
“It’s gonna hurt the people at the top possibly. It’s not gonna hurt business. It never has,” said Moreno to the Chicago Sun Times. “Raising the minimum wage in the United States has never, ever hurt the broader economy. . . . Our economy has been splintered with those at the top having way more. The middle class is shrinking. We want the middle class to grow.”