Protesters call for better wages, conditions

SHARE Protesters call for better wages, conditions

Diamond Binford had her children in mind as she read a list of demands in front of McDonald’s signature restaurant in River North.

The 19-year-old mother of three works at a South Side McDonald’s and was part of a group of about 30 protesters –– mostly women who work in the fast-food industry –– gathered Sunday morning at 600 N. Clark St. to demand a wage increase, consistent schedules, better treatment and the right to form an union without retaliation.

Child care subsidies, which are facing cuts due to lack of state funding, were a main concern. Many of the women said they cannot support their children on their current wages without state aid.

“I have to go to work, and I need someone to look after my children,” Binford said. “With no child care, I can’t work. We need money for us to survive, and for me to feed them and just for things that we need every day.”

Binford, who spends on three kids “more than what McDonald’s could ever give me,” said expenses more than surpass her wage.

Deivis Rojas, communications director for Fight for 15, an organization that’s pushing for a $15 minimum wage, said workers wouldn’t have to depend on subsidies if fast-food companies paid better wages.

Chanting “What do we want? $15. When do we want it? Now” in English and Spanish, along with “Hot dogs, burgers, hold those fries, make our budgets supersize,” the protesters stood in front of the restaurant’s front doors and later circled the block.

No one from the fast-food chain came to meet the protesters and the front doors were locked.

Fight for $15 organizes a protest on International Women’s Day because most fast-food workers are women, Rojas said.

A crowd demands better wages and working conditions at fast-food restaurants. | Esther Castillejo/Sun-Times

Most protesters were McDonald’s workers; many complained about the working conditions in their restaurants.“We don’t have enough employees on staff most of the time,” said Connie Bennett, who has been working at McDonald’s for eight years. “We have broken equipment that they don’t fix (right away) and needs to be taken care of.”

She was one of the few employees at the protest who works 40 hours a week. Still, she says she finds it hard to make ends meet.

“I’m a single person and my children are grown, but I still can’t pay my bills. I still can’t pay for my own apartment … I can’t afford food,” Bennett said. “I’m not in any kind of assistance because of the fact that I’m single. It’s a struggle every week. When you’re sick, you can’t afford to take a day off because if you lose that one day of pay, you can’t pay your bills.”

Olga Palacios, 45, has been working at McDonald’s for 14 years. She says employees in the franchise where she works are not allowed to take breaks, drink water or go to the restroom without the manager’s approval.

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