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The Best Signs & Sights From Chicago's Labor Day Rallies Calling For More Labor Rights

By Staff in News on Sep 5, 2017 6:10PM

Thousands of union workers, community groups, and their allies rallied and marched Monday morning to mark the Labor Day holiday as well as show support for higher wages and union rights.

"Today is my first time on strike,” Kayla Gray, a fast food worker with McDonalds, said in a statement emailed to Chicagoist. “All in one day, I was able to send a strong message to McDonald's and to Gov. Rauner that $15 an hour and union rights is exactly what workers need.”

The day began early in Pilsen, where a hundreds of workers and community members rallied outside a Pilsen McDonald's before marching through the neighborhood around 7:00 a.m.

“We want dignity and respect for every working person all across this country,” Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union,” told those gathered in Pilsen. “We are going to unite the fight for 15 and make every politician and elected official choose a side with working people once and for all. We are sick of an economy and democracy that are rigged against us.”

Thousands gathered later in the morning in the Loop first a rally at the Thompson Center, subsequently marching to the American Hospital Association. Those within the Fight For 15 movement—which was initially started by low wage fast food and retail workers but now encompasses airport, housekeepers, and other low wage workers—are trying to help organize hospital workers, another low paid economic sector. An August report by the National Employment Law Project showed that 71 percent of service jobs at hospitals pay less than $15 an hour.

Hospitals are the biggest employers in many cities and generate enormous revenues,” said Henry. “There is no excuse for them to keep wages so low that thousands of their nursing assistants, housekeepers, and dietary workers live in poverty.”

“What we need is a real movement to make the change,” said Chanel Noble, a non-unionized hospital worker at Holy Cross Hospital. “We need to win a union for all hospitals.”

Several gubernatorial candidates and other familiar faces in politics joined the demonstrations, including Sen. Daniel Biss, alderman Carlos Rosa, Rep. Juliana Stratton, Chris Kennedy, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Rep, Jan Schakowsky, and former Chicago alderman Bob Fioretti. The rally was closed out with a fiery speech from North Carolina NAACP President and leader of the Moral Monday movement Rev. Dr. William Barber II.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, who recently vetoed a bill for a $15 an hour minimum wage and has pushed anti-labor polices during his tenure, was a frequent target of criticism, as well as President Donald Trump - both for his anti-labor stance and recent decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program

We’ve got to resist that kind of demonization,” Barber told the crowd. “Resist that kind of otherization. And we need to tell him and tell all those supporting him, we’re coming for you—black, white, Latino, gay, straight, young, old, North, South, East, West. And we will not be divided.”