Monday, December 17, 2012

Low-wage worker rebellion spreads to Chicago

Now it's Chicago where retail and fast-food workers are taking their demand for livable wages to the streets.

Truthout is calling it the Wildcat Winter.
Hundreds of workers and supporters gathered in Chicago’s Cityfront Plaza on Thursday to speak out against the ways that major retail and fast food corporations are weakening the city’s economy with poverty-level wages. Marching along the Magnificent Mile and its throngs of holiday shoppers, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC) chanted and passed out leaflets supporting their “Fight for 15” campaign for a $15 per hour wage. Coming in the wake of the Walmart workers struggle for better working conditions, these and other low-wage workers now beginning to organize across the country in retail and restaurant industries are becoming a force to be reckoned with as they gain support from consumers and community organizations.
In New York City, retail workers have protested their low salaries and chaotic schedules, and fast-food workers have walked off the job. Wal-Mart workers struck in 46 states on Black Friday, and last week rallies supporting the retailers' employees were held in Miami, Washington, D.C.) and around the world. Workers for Wal-Mart-contracted warehouses have also gone on strike in Southern California and suburban Chicago.

The video above comes to us courtesy of Progress Illinois, which reports:
Illinois has the fifth highest minimum wage in the nation, at $8.25 per hour, higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, last adjusted in 2009. Even still, approximately 200 protesters marched down the Magnificent Mile, ending at the Water Tower Place, to campaign for higher wages. 
Illinois’ Self-Sufficiency Standard, a tool that calculates what a family needs to get by with basic necessities, indicates that a single parent with one child needs to earn approximately $17.24 per hour to sustain their family without public or private assistance.
Bloomberg News describes what it's actually like to try to survive as a McDonald's worker in a story titled, "McDonald’s $8.25 Man and $8.75 Million CEO Shows Pay Gap":
Tyree Johnson scrubs himself with a bar of soap in a McDonald’s (MCD) bathroom and puts on fresh deodorant. He stashes his toiletries in a Kenneth Cole bag, a gift from his mother who works the counter at Macy’s, and hops on an El train. His destination: another McDonald’s. 
Johnson isn’t one of Chicago’s many homeless people who seek shelter in fast-food joints. He’s a McDonald’s employee, at both stores -- one in the Loop, the other about a mile away in the shadow of Holy Name Cathedral. 
He needs the makeshift baths because hygiene and appearance are part of his annual compensation reviews. Even with frequent scrubbings, he said before a recent shift, it’s hard to remove the essence of the greasy food he works around. 
“I hate when my boss tells me she won’t give me a raise because she can smell me,” he said. 
Johnson, 44, needs the two paychecks to pay rent for his apartment at a single-room occupancy hotel on the city’s north side. While he’s worked at McDonald’s stores for two decades, he still doesn’t get 40 hours a week and makes $8.25 an hour, minimum wage in Illinois.
We'll keep you posted.