By ANN MONTAGUE
This is the fifth year that Fight For 15 made the trek to Chicago and then to suburban Oak Brook, Ill., where the annual McDonald’s shareholders meeting was taking place.
The first day, May 22, started with showcasing the leading role of women of color. A panel of activists expressed their message expanding on a quote from poet activist Audre Lorde, who spent her life addressing racism, sexism, and homophobia: “We cannot build a single issue movement, because we do not live single issue lives.”
On May 23, around 2500 activists took to the streets of Chicago to protest McDonald’s low wages and sexual harassment of workers. They seemed undaunted by the pouring rain. Using the slogan “McDonald’s is the Trump of Corporations: Sexual Harassment, Wage Theft, Poverty Wages, Tax Evasion” brought out allies of fast-food workers. There were workers from many fast-food restaurants, as well as from Amazon’s warehouses, home health-care workers, and workers from other corporations.
Terrance Wise, a McDonald’s worker from Kansas City, blamed McDonald’s for perpetuating “intergenerational poverty.” He recalled that his mother worked at fast-food restaurants for 30 years: “Watching her get up faithfully every morning at 5 a.m., working hard for years and years, and yet we continued to live in poverty in my childhood. We would come home some days and the lights were off, an eviction notice on the door.
“Now I see the repeat of it with me and my three little girls and fiancée. We are working hard every day, I am working for a profitable company, and I am still not able to provide for my family.”
Marches across the nation supported the workers marching in Chicago. Tina Sandoval, a McDonald’s worker in Richmond, Calif., told the crowd, “As the biggest fast food company, McDonald’s sets the bar for jobs and pay across the economy.”
The marchers connected their struggle with McDonald’s to the struggle for clean air and water. McDonald’s is the largest global buyer of beef, pork, tomatoes, and lettuce. They are responsible for farmworkers’ exposure to toxic chemicals and the environmental impacts of mass agriculture.
On the following day, May 24, about 300 activists—including many who had taken overnight buses—brought their protest to Oak Brook, Ill., where McDonald’s annual shareholders meeting was being held. Many were workers who wanted to support the fast-food workers’ struggle for $15 and a union. The protest included Madie Cummings, 40, who got on a bus in Cleveland. She is a kindergarten teacher who supports the workers and believes they will win. She said she didn’t sleep because “everyone was talking and very motivated.” It also included a 75-year-old member of the United Auto Workers local from Kansas City. “We fought for that stuff,” he said.
Ashley Bruce, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago, said, “No matter who is in office we are still going to fight for what belongs to us. We deserve $15 an hour and union rights.”
Her observation was quite timely. On the same day that the workers’ movement for $15 gathered across the country to support its five-year fight for a living wage and union rights, Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made a politician’s promise that the next Congress, in its first 100 hours, would pass a $15 minimum wage—a measure that would not take effect until 2024(!).
This is a typical Democratic Party ploy. Historically, any time the Democrats see a social movement they do not control, they find a way to undermine it and to divert it from the streets and into the Democratic Party swamp. Of course, the small print in this case is “if the Democrats regain control of the House in 2018.”
Anyone who has been paying attention the last five years should be startled to see that the name of the bill that Pelosi is proposing is called the Raise the Wage Act. This the same name of the tactic the Democrats have been using in state after state to undermine the movements for $15 and a union. By ignoring the workers’ movement and working with businesses in a number of states, they passed small raises that were way below a living wage.
Workers like Ashley Bruce should keep their eye on the prize: Keep striking and marching and broadening their movement. Expose the Democrats’ ploy to undermine them, and keep fighting, “no matter who is in office.”