HUNDREDS OF low-wage fast food and retail workers walked off the job and into the Chicago streets on April 24, only two weeks after fast food workers in New York City held another similar walkout and amid an ongoing national campaign against the retail giant Wal-Mart.
In Chicago, workers at more than 40 workplaces, including McDonald’s, Subway, Macy’s, Sally Beauty Supply, Victoria’s Secret and Whole Foods Market, organized rolling strikes that swept across the city from 5:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. This was the latest workplace action called by the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC)—also known as Fight for 15 (its central demand is that Chicago’s minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour).
The organization of fast-food and retail workers took its campaign public last November with a series of banner drops and sit-ins aimed at upscale retailers in the Loop and Magnificent Mile.
The April 24 day of strikes and protests focused again on the demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage, but there were also calls for an end to discrimination and intimidation against workers for organizing.
Raising the minimum wage would almost double the income of many fast-food and retail workers in Chicago, where the current minimum is only $8.25. The Living Wage Calculator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website estimates that a wage of about $20 an hour is needed for Chicago’s working families to meet their needs.
Workers struck on April 24 at great personal risk because the minimum wage in Chicago is a poverty wage. “We can’t survive on $8.25!” workers chanted as they marched from store to store in the Loop, where an estimated $4 billion passes through the cash registers annually.