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The Resistance Fuels Fight for $15 Activism Ahead of Corporate Stakeholder Meetings

Auditi Guha

“Donald Trump and McDonald's share a vision for America—where the greed of wealthy corporations reigns supreme,” said Josh B. Fox, an organizer with Indivisible Chicago.

The Fight for $15 has aligned itself with the resistance movement against President Trump’s agenda, demanding fair wages and practices from the nation’s largest companies that it calls “the Donald Trump of corporations.”

Since the November election, coalitions like Resist Reimagine Rebuild Chicago (R3) have formed to fight for labor, immigrant, gender, and racial justice, Adom Getachew told Rewire.

A member of R3, the Black Youth Project 100, and the Movement for Black Lives, Getachew said, “We support the Fight for $15 and today’s action against McDonald’s because it is very much aligned with the cause of Black low-wage workers at companies like McDonald’s and Walmart. The Fight for $15 is also about the dignity of workers.”

Workers, organizers, and social justice groups will rally at Trump Tower in downtown Chicago and march to the flagship Rock N Roll McDonald’s—the world’s second largest employer, according to movement organizers—at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday to draw attention to the fast food giant’s unfair practices of wage theft, sexual harassment, ripping off taxpayers, and firing workers for speaking out, according to a news release.

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“If McDonald’s wants to win back its customers, it needs to prove it respects workers like me—that starts by paying $15 an hour and respecting our right to a union,” said Adriana Alvarez, a McDonald’s worker in Chicago and a Fight for $15 leader in a press release. “We still get paid so little that we have to rely on food stamps and public assistance to raise our families. We still face sexual harassment on the job, and get money stolen from our paychecks. Until McDonald’s respects its workers, Americans will continue to reject the company, and our movement will continue to grow.”

Representatives from the Women’s March, Our Revolution, the Movement for Black Lives, MoveOn.org, Color of Change and NextGen will join the biggest ever March on McDonald’s to demand change on the eve of the fast food giant’s corporate shareholder meetings.

The fight against Trump has to involve a coalition because you can’t talk about worker and union rights without talking about immigrant rights, women’s rights, racial justice, and how it is intersectional in Chicago and in other places across the country, Getachew said.

“Labor rights are women’s rights,” Carmen Perez, co-chair of the Women’s March, said in the release. “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.”

McDonald’s lost more than 500 million customers since Fight for $15 workers first protested unfair labor practices in 2012. Pressure from the campaign has led to wage theft and child labor scrutiny in Brazil and more than $1 billion in alleged tax evasion in the European Union, according to a 2015 Guardian report. The company has brought digital self-serving kiosks to its 14,000 restaurants in the United States, which some argue is a response to the minimum wage fight.

Nevertheless, the protests have continued nationwide.

From cooks to cashiers, fast-food workers will head to Oak Brook, Illinois, at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, to take their demand for fair wages and union rights to the shareholders. Parallel protests are planned in more than a dozen cities across the country, the release stated.

“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,” said Larry Cohen, chairman of the Our Revolution board, in the release.

Since 2012, the fight for fair wages has made $15 a minimum wage in California, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Wage hikes have totaled more than $62 billion for 22 million underpaid workers by raising awareness and pressuring companies like Aetna, Facebook, JP Morgan Chase, and Nationwide Insurance to raise the bar, according to Fight for $15.

Many companies have yet to follow suit.

The 2017 Expose Walmart Tour stopped at Dallas City Hall last week to show how Walmart, which claims to pay an average hourly wage of $13.75, often hires workers for much less, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The Making Change at Walmart campaign is airing a national ad challenging the company to act responsibly, in multiple cities until Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting on June 2, according to a news release.

With 1.5 million workers, Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States, according to Making Change. For fiscal year ending in January 2017, it generated $486 billion in revenues and had $13.6 billion in net income. Speaking to workers across the country for the past five months, the Making Change at Walmart campaign states that it did not find any full-time, non-supervisory employees who made the stated minimum wage.

“Tens of thousands of Walmart workers are paid so little that they rely on government assistance programs to survive, like food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing. All programs funded by the taxpayer,” the release stated.

Labor and community organizations planned to gather Tuesday morning outside the Fremont Foundry across the street from the Amazon shareholders meeting in Seattle.

“The coalition will urge Amazon to be a leader in the private sector by making ethical choices to build a more sustainable economy and a more sustainable future for us all. Speakers will discuss Amazon’s impact, and call on the tech giant to take responsibility for its rapidly expanding footprint,” a release stated.

The company recently came under fire for allegedly retaliating against contracted security officers who spoke up about how its Muslim workers are mistreated. It has been criticized for mass low-paying jobsonline privacy issues, worker intimidation, and other unethical business practices.

Thousands of workers are gathering in Chicago to continue the fight against regressive policies that harm vulnerable communities. Expanding beyond Illinois, Fight for $15 proponents agree that labor rights are also immigrant, gender, and Black rights, and that big companies need to step up.

Organizers said opposition to Trump’s agenda and corporations’ anti-worker policies went hand in hand.

“Donald Trump and McDonald’s share a vision for America—where the greed of wealthy corporations reigns supreme,” said Josh B. Fox, an 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.”

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