CHICAGO —Thousands of workers fighting for $15 an hour and union rights, joined by members of more than a dozen groups at the forefront of the resistance to President Trump's extremist agenda, flooded downtown Chicago Tuesday for a massive "March on McDonald's" ahead of the company's annual shareholder meeting.
Chanting "Ronald, Donald, You Can't Hide, We Can See Your Greedy Side," workers in the Fight for $15 amassed outside Trump Tower with leaders from the Women's March, Our Revolution, the Movement for Black Lives, MoveOn, Color of Change, NextGen and the Sierra Club, among others, before descending on the flagship Rock N Roll McDonald's on the eve of the company's shareholder meeting.
Protestors marched behind a giant banner reading, "McDonald's: The Donald Trump of Corporations," stressing the similarities between President Trump's and McDonald's record of wage theft, sexual harassment, tax dodging and firing people for speaking out. Workers and resistance leaders called on McDonald's to use its scale and influence as the world's second largest private employer to lift up Americans across the country rather than drag them down.
"As the biggest fast-food company, McDonald's sets the bar for jobs and pay all across the economy," said Tina Sandoval, a McDonald's worker in Richmond, CA. "It's time the company use its power to lift up working people across the country by paying $15 an hour and respecting our right to a union. We're going to keep on marching until McDonald's takes action."
Protests will continue Wednesday outside McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., as the company's shareholder meeting unfolds. Simultaneously, cooks and cashiers in more than a dozen cities across the country will protest at local McDonald's stores Wednesday to support their coworkers marching in Oak Brook and echo their demand for $15 an hour and union rights.
Scrutiny at Home and Overseas
McDonald's faced intensified scrutiny in the U.S. and overseas ahead of the protest Tuesday. On Monday, Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires and former BlackRock executive Morris Pearl penned an open letter to McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, slamming McDonald's mistreatment of workers. Pearl writes, "With your annual shareholder meeting approaching, I urge you to put your dominance over the global economy to work raising people up instead of driving a race to the bottom. No other employer on the planet has the power to make the world a fairer place like you do. It's time to put that power to work."
As environmental justice leaders including NextGen, the Sierra Club and 350.org called on McDonald's to support sustainable, living wage jobs, a report released Tuesday by French NGO Zero Waste found that McDonald's produces more and more waste in France while it shows declining recycling rates, contrary to the environmental commitments the company has made. In a letter sent to the company, Zero Waste France asks to be notified on the total waste quantities produced by McDonald's in France, all well as on the number of restaurants that have developed a waste sorting process.
Meanwhile, in New York City, members of the City Council prepared for a vote Wednesday on a package of bills that would curb abusive scheduling practices by McDonald's and other fast-food chains and enable cooks and cashiers to establish their own self-funded organization to fight for good jobs. Fast-food workers in New York City are expected to rally Wednesday afternoon at City Hall to call on the Council to approve the bills.
Widespread Consumer Rejection
The March on McDonald's comes as the burger giant grapples with widespread consumer rejection of its brand. In March, McDonald's executives announced the company has lost more than 500 million customers since 2012, the year cooks and cashiers at the fast-food giant first went on strike to demand $15 an hour and union rights.
Tuesday and Wednesday's protests follow years of intensifying actions at the company's shareholder meeting led by workers in the Fight for $15. In 2014, the company shuttered its headquarters while police officers met rallying workers in riot gear and arrested more than 100 McDonald's cooks and cashiers during a peaceful sit-in. In 2015, McDonald's workers hand delivered a petition to company representatives bearing more than one million signatures from Americans across the country calling on the company to support $15 an hour and union rights. And in 2016, hundreds of workers waged an overnight occupation outside the company's headquarters ahead of the annual meeting, setting up a tent city following a massive march.
"We can't resist President Trump's agenda without resisting the corporations that rig the economy and undercut working people across the country," said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union. "McDonald's mistreatment of workers and communities undermines the values we share as Americans, and those fighting for a more fair and just country are going to keep standing to demand the company support $15 an hour and union rights and stop driving a race to the bottom."
This week's protest signal a deepening partnership between the Fight for $15 and movements resisting President Trump, ties that have been building since the November 2016 election. Marking the 49th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, the Fight for $15 and the Movement for Black Lives waged a nationwide "Fight Racism, Raise Pay" protest on April 4 spanning two-dozen cities across the country. And just weeks after the election, thousands of workers in the Fight for $15 walked off the job in 340 cities from coast to coast and engaged in waves of civil disobedience, pledging that they "won't back down" in their fight for $15 and union rights.
Since Nov. 29, 2012, the Fight for $15 has spurred wage hikes totaling more than $62 billion for 22 million underpaid workers, including more than 10 million who are on their way to $15 an hour, by convincing everyone from voters to politicians to corporations to raise pay. Workers have taken what many viewed as an outlandish proposition — $15 an hour— and made it the new labor standard in New York, California, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15 an hour statewide minimum wages and companies including Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Nationwide Insurance have raised pay to $15 an hour or higher.
Organizations leading the March on McDonald's include: Fight for $15, the Women's March, MoveOn.org, Movement for Black Lives, Our Revolution, Next Gen, Color of Change, Fair Immigration Reform Movement, Repairers of the Breach, Indivisible Chicago, Women's March-Chicago, Center for Community Change, 350.org, Patriotic Millionaires, Cosecha and Sierra Club.
More voices from the March on McDonald's:
"Black workers are disproportionately impacted by the low wages, poor hours and abusive conditions in McDonald's restaurants nationwide," said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director, Color Of Change. "By refusing to mandate higher wages for its franchisees, McDonald's is dragging down standards across the industry. The Fight for $15 in cities across the country is led by Black organizers on the frontlines of the battle for both racial and economic justice. Color Of Change is proud to support the leaders of this crucial part of the movement."
"Labor rights are women's rights," said Carmen Perez, co-chair of the Women's March. "The link between the gender justice and labor justice movements is strong — but often unacknowledged. Women's March is proud to join Fight for $15 and others to rise up against unfair labor practices, economic exploitation and workplace sexual harassment. These fights are our fights, and the only way we win is together."
"We cannot allow corporations like McDonalds to continue violating basic workers' rights to boost profits," said Larry Cohen, Our Revolution Board Chair. "Women and men who work 40 hours a week continue to face poverty. McDonald's continues to stand on the wrong side of worker's rights by opposing minimum wage increases, paid sick leave, and fair scheduling. We're marching to tell McDonald's and other multinational corporations: this greed must end."
"The United States has the largest economy in the world, yet powerful corporations continue to cheat and abuse the very workers who strengthen and grow our economy," said Tom Steyer, President and Founder, NextGen Climate. "That's why I'm proud to stand with Fight for $15 and march on McDonald's to demand a living wage for workers. We're bringing the fight to their door, and we will continue to fight for a more just economy for all Americans."
"McDonald's is a brand known around the world and one of the richest companies in the United Statesbut it makes those billions of dollars by exploiting Black and Brown workers and others," said Barbara Ransby, activist with the Movement for Black Lives. "When we chant 'which side are you on, my people?' we have to be on the side of our sisters and brothers working long hours for less than a living wage. If we are not 'for' them and 'with' them, who are we for?"
"Donald Trump and McDonalds share a vision for Americawhere the greed of wealthy corporations reigns supreme," said Josh B. Fox, Organizer with Indivisible Chicago. "We are incredibly proud to join Fight for $15 in demanding an America where the livelihood and dignity of people come before corporations."
"The Fight for $15 is one of the most inspiring peopled powered movements in recent memory," said Jenny Marienau, U.S Campaigns Director, 350.org . "We wholeheartedly support the rights of McDonald's employees to strike and to earn a living wage. Whether it's the fast food industry or the fossil fuel industry, we demand that dignity be placed ahead of profits for corporate executives."