By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Hundreds of protesters descended on downtown Chicago on Sept. 12 to send a direct message to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner whose policies they say are destroying Illinois families.
Along with the Fight for $15 Movement, protesters say Rauner is bad for Illinois for not paying people a living wage, cuts to social services and vetoing legislation that would help ease burdens.
The protesters came from all backgrounds and represented a variety of professions. Everyone from school teachers to fast-food workers protested in the demonstrations in Chicago. They came for personal reasons many of them said, but they also see the bigger picture.
“What kind of a society and state do I want to live in?” is the question Darlene Roberts of Hillside asked herself before deciding to participate in the protest. “I make a comfortable living, but what good is that when the people who live next door to me are struggling? I hear horror stories all the time of the tough choices families have to make, and I think it is unfair in the richest nation on earth that people have to live like this with all of this stress. Businesses keep saying they can’t afford to pay people a living wage, but they also claim they can’t give sick days, vacation days or medical benefits. Well, if you can’t do that, then you basically have working poor people.”
According to the Fight for $15 Chicago Movement, Illinois families—especially Black and Latino—working-class and rural communities are being destroyed by Rauner’s policies and vetoes.
“Gov. Rauner has only made things worse for Illinois families like mine. As a McDonald’s worker, I don’t earn enough to pay my son’s childcare and the rest of my bills,” said Adriana Alvarez, who has been involved in the movement to raise the minimum wage in Illinois to $15 since it began. “Instead of supporting working-class mothers like me, the governor has chosen to cut funding and eliminate programs that support us. Gov. Rauner needs to do what’s morally right.”
In Chicago, the minimum wage will go up to $13 in 2019. Other large cities are already at $13 and many more are on their way to $15. Protesters say Illinois is always last to do something that would be for the good of the people.
“Let’s see, we are last in funding education; we’re the last state to pass a concealed carry law so people could protect themselves and last in taxes of all the big cities,” said Shawn Drake from East Garfield Park. “Then they wonder why people are fleeing Chicago and Illinois in general.”
Protesters lay on the ground and held up signs to symbolize people dying in Illinois.
While much of their ire was directed at Rauner, they are blaming all legislators in the state for the financial mess that has become Illinois. Many demonstrators are calling for the taxing of the financial sector and large corporations in the state. But many say that will never happen and are afraid the state’s only way out of its financial burden is to file for bankruptcy.
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) at Mt. Sinai Hospital, the West Side’s only Level 1 trauma center, earn an average hourly wage of $14.11, according to SEIU Healthcare Illinois. That wage represents the lowest hourly pay among CNAs at Chicago’s Level 1 adult trauma centers, union officials said.
Standing with State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), the CNAs formally announced their decision to join the Fight for $15 campaign. Northwestern Memorial Hospital workers joined the campaign back in June.
In May, protesters camped overnight outside the McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook.