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Fast-food workers protest downtown, call for $15 an hour

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Updated: May 16, 2014 12:17AM



Protesting fast-food workers chanting under umbrellas and red ponchos on a chilly, rainy Thursday in River North weren’t simply looking for a raise.

They said they want respect.

“We hope that McDonald’s realizes that, you know, we’re not replaceable,” said Adriana Alvarez, a 22-year-old single mom from Cicero who said she worked for two years without a raise from the fast-food behemoth. “They’re always talking about, ‘You’re replaceable, I could just hire someone else.’”

Alvarez joined other workers Thursday from restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s who took part in a protest expected to spread across 150 cities and several countries. They rallied in Chicago outside the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s at 600 North Clark.

Nazly Damasio, a spokeswoman for the Fight for 15 campaign, said the workers want a living wage of $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.

“They’re making billions of dollars — McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King — while their workers are living in poverty,” Damasio said. “Fifty-two percent of these workers have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet. These are mothers and fathers with kids.”

McDonald’s issued a statement saying, in part, that “the events taking place are not strikes. Outside groups have traveled to McDonald’s and other outlets to stage rallies.”

Alvarez said a union has taken root at the McDonald’s where she works — but not without retaliation for at least one worker. That employee was moved from her morning shift to an afternoon shift, only to be returned to her original schedule after the union fought back, Alvarez said.

Veronica Spann, a 29-year-old McDonald’s worker from Bronzeville, said at least one manager at her restaurant is supportive. Others, though, are more concerned with getting through their shift than “workers’ rights.”

“Right now they don’t care about you,” said Matthew Herring, a 29-year-old McDonald’s worker from the South Side.

Darius Finley, another McDonald’s worker from Humboldt Park, said there’s not much to take home at the end of the day, either.

“I feel like, the pay that we get, really can’t take care of a studio apartment,” Finley said.

The workers took shelter from the rain later Thursday morning at a nearby union hall. They were expected to rally on-and-off again outside the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s until 5:30 p.m. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky was also expected to join them.

Email: jseidel@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SeidelContent



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