‘BILLS DON’T WAIT’
HUNDREDS STRIKE AT O’HARE, MCDONALD’S AS PART OF NATIONWIDE DAY OF PROTESTS
about 2,000, voted to participate in the strike, SEIU Local 1 spokeswoman Izabela MiltkoIvkovich said. She estimated that’s how many workers were on the strike line, but that number could not be independently verified.
The striking workers are employed by subcontractors Scrub, Prospect Airport Services and Air Serv, which are hired by the airlines.
The Chicago Department of Aviation reported no flight disruptions.
The strike at O’Hare was one in a series of nationwide protests held Tuesday that involved a broad swath of workers, including airport workers, fast food employees, graduate assistants, child and health care workers and Uber drivers.
The protests were organized by the Fight for $15 campaign, led by the Service Employees International Union.
The day began early in Chicago, when some 200 people crowded outside a McDonald’s in West Town, chanting and waving signs.
While a $15 minimum wage and union rights have been the clarion call for the move- ment, the nationwide protests planned in 340 cities and 20 airports Tuesday also were meant to signal to newly elected leaders, not least President-elect Donald Trump, that the activists would “not back down” from several social justice causes they worried were under threat.
People outside the McDonald’s carried signs that read “Stop Killing Black People” and “No Deportations.”
The protesters sat on the ground at the intersection of Chicago and Damen avenues until police officers asked them to stand and led them away to buses that were waiting. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) chanted with them.
Police said 55 protesters were detained and cited.
Antonio Hernandez, 28, who earns minimum wage at KFC, was among those cited.
“I’ve had enough of selling my existence for below what I feel it should be,” he said.
Hernandez, who had worked in construc- Antonio Hernandez, tion in Florida before moving back to Chicago, his hometown, last year, said he couldn’t find a construction job fast enough so he decided to try a career in the fast-food industry. He said he hopes to eventually own one or two KFC franchises, but on his current wage he can’t make ends meet and has to supplement his wages performing renovation work on friends’ homes.
Lorena Gallardo, 19, who has worked as a cook at McDonald’s for two years, earns $10.50 an hour and says that isn’t enough to help her mom cover household expenses.
Her mom, who has worked at McDonald’s for 15 years, also makes $10.50 an hour.
Gallardo, who also is trying to save money to return to college after dropping out because she couldn’t afford it, said she is happy that Chicago is on its way to a $13 minimum wage, but the city won’t get there until 2019.
“That’s a long wait,” she said. “Bills don’t wait.”
The protests outside McDonald’s subsided after about an hour as protesters moved on to their next target, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, before heading to O’Hare. Some protesters popped into McDonald’s for some breakfast before moving on.