PI Original Ellyn Fortino Thursday April 14th, 2016, 4:49pm

Chicago Low-Wage Workers Shut Down Traffic In Push For $15 Minimum Wage (VIDEO)

A few hundred workers with the Fight for $15 campaign protested Thursday afternoon on Chicago's North Side, where they shut down traffic at the busy intersection of Sheridan Road and Hollywood Avenue. The protest was part of a global day of action being held today by low-wage workers pushing for a $15 minimum wage and union rights. 

Chicago low-wage workers with the Fight for $15 campaign are staging a series of protests Thursday as part of a worldwide day of action for better pay and union rights.

A few hundred fast food and nursing home workers joined adjunct professors and other allies during afternoon protests on Chicago's North Side. The group demonstrated at a McDonald's in the Edgewater neighborhood before marching to Loyola University Chicago and a nearby nursing home. 

Protesters participated in civil disobedience, shutting down the busy intersection of Sheridan Road and Hollywood Avenue off the entrance to Lake Shore Drive for about 20 minutes. No arrests were made at the peaceful demonstration.

Lakesia Collins, 30, participated in the action. She works at a nursing home on the Southwest Side of Chicago and earns $10.35 an hour.

The mother of three said she's in "constant stress" trying to make ends meet on "poverty wages."

"Some of us are actually homeless, or looking at being evicted, because we can't afford the rent, and we can't get the basic necessities for our families, so it's hard," she told Progress Illinois. "And $15 is not gonna get us where we need to be, but it's a head start."

Check out scenes from the protest:



Warehouse workers who make McDonald's McCafe cups were also on the picket lines for the first time as part of the Fight for $15 campaign. Among them was Dominique Bouie, 27, who manufactures the McCafe cups at a warehouse in Romeoville. She's employed by Elite Staffing Inc. and makes $10 an hour.

"We stand on our feet all night. Sometimes we get relief from breaks, sometimes we don't," she said. "But it's just how it goes in the company. You can't complain about it or you lose your job. We just want to get the pay that we deserve."

Low-wages workers are protesting Thursday for a $15 minimum wage and union rights in over 300 U.S. cities and 40 countries, representing the largest Fight for $15 strike since the campaign began in 2012. That's when the fast food industry was first targeted by striking employees in New York City.

Thursday's worldwide protests come on the heels of historic $15 wage victories in California and New York. Last week, both states enacted legislation to gradually increase their minimum wages to $15 an hour.

Since the Fight for $15 campaign launched in November 2012, nearly 17 million workers nationwide have earned pay raises, according to a new analysis by the National Employment Law Project. Ten million of those workers will see their pay go up to $15 an hour.

Adriana Alvarez, 24, is a McDonald's worker in Cicero. She makes $10.50 an hour, and says she and her co-workers have earned two wage increases from McDonald's since the Fight for $15 campaign began. Even still, Alvarez says McDonald's can afford to pay its workers a "living wage" of $15 an hour. She described McDonald's as a trendsetter when it comes to wages.

"McDonald's is the poster child of why we have so many poverty wages," she said. "They're the world's second largest employer, and if they're making billions in profit paying poverty wages, of course other companies are gonna want to do the same."

Several Loyola University Chicago adjunct professors were at today's protest. 

"We are standing in solidarity with Fight for $15 because we have McJobs the same way that they do," explained Alyson Warren, 35, an adjunct writing and composition instructor at Loyola. "As contingent faculty, we're contractual. We're not stable, and when you really look at it, we make $4,500 a course. So in 15 weeks, since I'm available to my students 24/7, that breaks down to a poverty wage."

She and other Loyola adjuncts are pushing for higher pay and union recognition. Faculty at the university voted to unionize in January. 

"We won our union back in January. The university has appealed that, but we are still moving forth in discussions in good faith," Warren said. "We've won our union, and we're sticking to that, and we feel that the (National Labor Relations Board) will support us with that."

Earlier this morning, Fight for $15 members rallied outside a McDonald's on Chicago's South Side. Workers and their supporters plan to gather downtown later this afternoon for a large protest and march. Check back with Progress Illinois for our coverage of the afternoon Fight for $15 action.


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