PI Original Ellyn Fortino Tuesday November 10th, 2015, 2:08pm

Chicago Fight For $15 Activists Rally For 'Racial, Economic Justice' During National Day Of Protests (VIDEO)

Low-wages workers with the Fight for $15 campaign went on strike Tuesday in 270 cities, including Chicago. Progress Illinois provides highlights from the morning Fight for $15 protests in Chicago.

Chicago fast food workers and their supporters rallied Tuesday morning for "racial and economic justice" during a national day of strikes in 270 U.S. cities spearheaded by the Fight for $15 campaign.

The low-wage workers, who want a $15 minimum wage and union rights, were joined by Black Lives Matter activists during a protest that began at about 10 a.m. outside the McDonald's at 207 E. 35th St. 

From there, the group marched to the Chicago Police Department headquarters at 3510 S. Michigan Ave. Protesters held signs that read, "End police crimes in our communities."

"We're demanding racial and economic justice, because we need to feel safe in our communities, as well as be able to put food on the table for our families," said Solo Littlejohn, a KFC worker in suburban Cicero who earns the state's minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. 

Charles Preston, 25, with the Chicago chapter of the Black Youth Project (BYP) 100, a national organization of young black activists aged 18 to 35, was among the Black Lives Matter protesters at the Fight for $15 demonstration.

"I think it's a crime when the police budget in Chicago holds 40 percent of the [city] budget, yet you have people struggling on minimum wage," Preston said. "And I think people deserve a living wage before we need any more cops, before we need any more spending for police."

Check out scenes from the protest:

Tuesday's 270-city national strike, said by organizers to be the largest of its kind, comes three years after the fast food industry was first targeted by striking employees in New York City before the Fight for 15 movement gained traction across the country. 

South Side McDonald's worker and single mother Mary Hood, 29, hit the Fight for $15 picket lines for the first time Tuesday. 

"I'm tired of struggling. I'm tired of having issues of paying my bills and taking care of my daughter and meeting my own personal needs," said Hood, who makes $10.50 an hour. 

Despite working full-time, Hood said she has to rely on public assistance, including Medicaid, to supplement her low wages in order to make ends meet.

"I come to work every day. I'm never late. I'm always on time. I stay past the time that I'm supposed to. So pay me what I deserve," she added.

Hood said a $15 minimum wage, which is a yearly salary of about $31,000, would help her better afford basic needs.

"It would put me in a better position," she said. "It would take some of my struggles away ... I could do more things for myself and my daughter and meet more of my monthly bills."

The daylong Fight for $15 protests in Chicago kicked off early Tuesday morning. Fast food, home care, child care, airport and other low-wage workers started protesting outside the McDonald's at 1951 N. Western Ave. around 6:30 a.m.

Later in the evening, Fight for $15 activists plan to rally at the Thompson Center. It will be one of many demonstrations in 500 U.S. cities where underpaid workers from across various industries will draw attention to the growing support of a $15 minimum hourly wage. With the 2016 general election a year away, the low-wage workers also seek to point out that "the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15 are a voting bloc that can no longer be ignored," according to a statement.

Candidates running in the 2016 elections "have to come and get our vote," Littlejohn said.

"The only way they're going to do that is if they also negotiate with us (on) what we're asking for, which is a $15 an hour minimum wage, union rights, racial and economic justice, which is equality and fairness (for) all," he said.

Check back with Progress Illinois for our coverage of the evening Fight for $15 protests in Chicago.


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