A few thousand union members commemorated Labor Day on Monday with marches, rallies and vows to oust the Republican governor who shot down a $15 minimum wage hike.
There were speeches outside the State of Illinois building in Chicago, marches in Pilsen and downtown, and a slew of events that drew the attention or attendance of several of the Democratic candidates who want a shot at ousting Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Outside the American Hospital Association headquarters, 155 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago’s hospital workers railed against Rauner’s policies as “rigged in favor of the rich,” as SEIU Healthcare Illinois president Greg Kelley put it.
“It’s rigged in favor of people like our governor, Bruce Rauner, who uses his office to attack working families — yeah, boo on that,” Kelley said in response to the jeers.
Mimi Merinda, a housekeeper of almost seven years at Holy Cross Hospital in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, addressed the governor directly for vetoing a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2022.
“You vetoed our ability to put a little more food on our table, you vetoed my family’s ability to make ends meet, so next November, I want you to know we’re going to veto you,” Merinda said.
That prompted some of the loudest cheering from the crowds on nearby Randolph street.
Merinda said she’s up at 4:45 a.m. each morning to get to work on time, and she’s paid much less than the $15 she and the others are fighting for. She and other housekeepers are trying to organize under SEIU Healthcare Illinois.
“A person can’t survive on that kind of wages, especially when they’ve dedicated their life to work to help other people,” Merinda said, joined on stage by the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and union members from across the city and country. “We all give 100 percent to the hospital but they don’t give it back. We need hospital workers across the city to demand to be paid what we’re worth.”
Last week Rauner vetoed a bill that would have required the state’s hourly minimum wage to rise from $8.25 to $15 over five years. The pro-business governor, who has been no friend to unions, said such a hike would “hurt the very individuals it seeks to help” by shrinking the number of available jobs.
Rauner, who attended a morning Labor Day parade in Kankakee County, wouldn’t field questions from reporters at the African Festival of the Arts in Chicago’s Washington Park. A spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Several of Monday’s participating unions are part of an investment group that bought the Chicago Sun-Times.
Contributing: Taylor Hartz