Updated 09/04/14 – 11:21 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — More than a dozen protesters were arrested Thursday morning on the South Side, after the street in front of a McDonald’s and a Burger King, as part of a nationwide effort to get fast food restaurants and other businesses to pay workers at least $15 an hour.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports fast food workers demanding a higher minimum wage staged an angry protest rally and sit-in on 87th Street between State and Wabash, demanding a significant increase in pay and the right to form a union.
The “Fight for $15” campaign has staged a series of rallies across the country over the past couple years, but this was the first time demonstrators planned acts of civil disobedience designed to result in arrests in an effort to raise the profile of their movement.
Hundreds of protesters descended on 87th Street around 8:30 a.m., chanting “take the streets” and “we shall not be moved” as they blocked traffic.
The protesters said Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to gradually increase Chicago’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2018 is a step in the right direction, but not a big enough step.
They vowed to do whatever it takes to get their message across.
Chicago police officers moved in to arrest 19 workers, after they sat on the street in a line between the McDonald’s and the Burger King on 87th Street, and refused to leave. After about 10 minutes, officers began handcuffing demonstrators who ignored police orders to disperse.
As they were hauled away to police cars and SUVs, those who were arrested said it was worth it to achieve their goal.
“I work for a McDonald’s in Hyde Park. We’re fighting for our rights to make $15 an hour, because we can’t feed our families. We can’t feed no one off $8.25 an hour,” Kimberly Cotton said. “It’s worth it to get arrested, because we are trying to feed our homes, feed our families, and $8.25, we can’t do nothing with.”
Donald Jenkins, who works at a McDonald’s in Auburn-Gresham, said he was doing “whatever it takes” to get a $15-an-hour wage.
“If I gotta pay a fine, I’m going to pay the fine. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get this $15,” he said.
Police News Affairs confirmed 19 people were arrested during the protest, but would not face criminal charges. Instead, they were issued administrative citations for blocking the street.
Remaining protesters cleared out by about 9:15 a.m. as heavy rain moved in.
Chicago was one of 150 cities where fast food workers planned to walk off the job on Thursday to stage protests and other acts of civil disobedience.
Past demonstrations have included a protest rally outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook during a shareholder meeting, and several one-day “strikes” by fast food workers in various major cities, including several in Chicago.