By Mariana Alfaro
Evanston workers, activists and community members marched to Burger King, 1740 Orrington Ave., Sunday afternoon as part of a demonstration against low wages and poor working conditions in fast food restaurants across the city.
Fight for $15, an international movement that supports workers who are campaigning for higher wages and union rights, held the demonstration at Evanston’s Fountain Square. The event, which was also intended to celebrate International Workers’ Day, was the first time Fight for $15 held a rally in Evanston.
Participants later delivered a petition to the McDonald’s on 1919 Dempster St. that requested better workplace conditions for employees, higher wages and unionization.
About 80 people attended the rally, where activists, workers, community members and state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) spoke to the crowd in support of higher wages.
The minimum wage in Evanston is the state-mandated $8.25 an hour. In comparison, Chicago increased its minimum wage to $10 last year. By 2019, Chicago plans to raise it to $13.
In an interview with The Daily last month, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said although she supports a minimum wage of $15, she doesn’t think Evanston will implement it until it becomes a statewide ordinance.
“It’s a good thing to do, I think it is a necessary thing to do but I do think it needs to be statewide,” she said.
Gabriel Machabanski, a member of Open Communities, a group that combats housing discrimination in Chicago’s north suburbs, said during the rally that it is unfair for workers on the “other side of Howard (Street)” to receive an income so different from those who work in Chicago.
“Evanston is becoming increasingly less welcoming to its low-income residents by way of rising property values and lack of affordable housing and … stagnant poverty wages,” he said.
Before marching to Burger King, various Evanston residents spoke about their experiences working for fast food restaurants in the area. Carlota Gomez, who has worked in an Evanston McDonald’s for over 20 years, said she was protesting verbal abuse in her workplace and was advocating not only for $15 wages but also for worker unionization and the right to drink water while working.
At 1 p.m., the group marched toward Burger King, where they chanted slogans such as “The people united will never be defeated” and “Put $15 on our check” in English and Spanish. Afterward, they moved to the McDonald’s where they were initially not let into the restaurant’s premises. Once inside, they continued chanting the same slogans before being escorted outside by Evanston Police Department officers.
Rosa Villaseñor, who works for Aramark at Northwestern, said she went to the protest in support of friends and colleagues who are struggling with their wages in Evanston fast food restaurants. She said these workers sometimes receive threats telling them to stop protesting, which is why they accept current wages.
“Even though they’re paid low wages, people prefer that to nothing,” Villaseñor said.
Before the protest ended, organizers announced a May 25 march to the McDonald’s shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois.