In Chicago today, organizers of the Women’s March are on the move again. Racial justice activists from the Movement for Black Lives and Color of Change are marching beside them. Climate activists, immigration advocates, community organizers and progressives of many stripes are filling the streets of Chicago to demand change, not only in Washington, but in tens of thousands of McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. and across the world.
The broad coalition is joining the Fight for $15 in their call for the fast food giant to pay a wage of $15 an hour and recognize workers’ right to form a union free of intimidation and harassment.
“These fights are our fights,” explains Women’s March co-chair Carmen Perez, “and the only way we win is together.”
The solidarity has been building over time, as fast food workers stood up against police violence and racism in the wake of the killing of Mike Brown in 2014. Uniting this year under the slogan "Fight Racism, Raise Pay," the Fight for $15 and Movement for Black Lives rallied across the country on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s murder to highlight the interconnectedness of economic and racial justice in Dr. King’s time and our own. The imperative to join forces across a broad array of movements has become increasingly urgent as the Trump administration aims to roll back women’s rights, workers’ rights, racial justice efforts, environmental sustainability, respect for the human rights of immigrants and fundamental democratic rights.
As a result, activists are taking on not only Trump and his agenda but corporate allies that are making the country—and the world—more inequitable. Today the target is McDonald’s, poised to hold its annual shareholder meeting in the Chicago suburbs.
“McDonald’s, frankly, is the Donald Trump of corporations,” Fight for $15 organizer Kendall Fells told the Washington Post. “There’s no way to resist Donald Trump without resisting the corporations that are bringing us all down.”
Demos research finds that fast food is one of the most unequal industries in the U.S. economy, not only because fast food employees are the lowest-paid workers (with an average hourly wage of just $9.09), but also because fast food CEOs are some of the most highly compensated workers, raking in $23.8 million in total compensation on average in 2013. At McDonald’s itself, CEO Steve Easterbrook received a 368 percent raise in base pay last year.
In other words, fast food isn’t a low-wage industry—it’s just an extraordinarily inequitable one, with poverty wages for the people contending with hot grease mirrored by stratospheric pay for those at the top. The Trump administration, which initially nominated a fast food CEO to lead the Department of Labor, has outlined policies that would push the entire country further in the direction of extreme inequality. No wonder people are marching.