More than 1,000 fast-food workers gathered outside Chicago for a two-day convention which aimed to celebrate recent successes in the campaign for better workers’ rights and drum up energy and ideas for a new wave of demonstrations.
On Saturday, workers voted in favor of including civil disobedience in their efforts to reach a $15-per-hour minimum wage and the right to form a union without fear of retribution from employers.
At what was believed to be the first such convention, workers voted to include sit-ins and restaurant occupations in future demonstrations.
“I personally think we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us,” Cherri Delisline, a McDonald’s employee from Charleston, South Carolina, told the Associated Press.
Delisline, a single mother, said she had worked at the world’s largest fast-food chain for 10 years and now made $7.35 hour.
“We make the owners enough money that they have houses and cars and their kids are taken care of,” Delisline said. “Why don’t [they] make sure I can be able to do the same for my kids and my family?”
The convention comes on the back of an increasing number of strikes by fast-food workers, including demonstrations in May that were staged in 150 US cities and more than 30 other countries. Seattle’s decision in June to increase its minimum wage to $15 was seen as an encouraging sign for the movement.
The campaigning workers have received considerable support from one of the country’s largest unions, the Service Employees International Union. Addressing the conference on Friday, the SEIU president, Mary Kay Henry, said the union’s 2 million members supported the fast-food workers.
“Because of your courage, this movement is getting stronger every day,” Henry said. “It’s getting larger.”