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Fast food workers Fight for 15

Tue, Jun 17, 2014

“Chicago workers can’t survive making $8.25!” chanted dozens of fast food workers and community activists at a protest Thursday, May 15 outside the Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s on Clark and Ontario.

Largely bedecked in red rain ponchos reading “Fight for 15 Lucha por 15” and carrying assorted signs, the crowd of protesters remained a loud and energetic presence.

“Paying fast food workers a living wage of $15 an hour is not just good for all workers, it’s good for everyone,” Nazly Damasio, a spokeswoman of the Fight for 15 movement, said at the protest. “For these workers, being paid a higher wage means having money to spend, which bolsters the economy. It’s a win for everybody.”

Fight for 15 “seeks: $15/hour living wage and the right to form a union without retaliation,” according to its website. The gathering at the Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s was the fifth organized by the Workers’ Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC) since its Fight for 15 campaign began in November 2012. There were also hundreds of similar workers’ rights demonstrations around the world May 15.

Workers raised other issues, such as a lack of a fixed schedule and the difficulties of raising a family on Chicago’s current minimum wage, $8.25/hour.
“You never know when you’re going to work, you never know how many hours you’re gonna get any week so you can never calculate your money, you never know what bills can get paid, you go get your paycheck and it’s smaller than a bill you have to pay out, smaller than your rent. You can’t survive on ‘what ifs’ and questions,” Jessica Davis, an employee of the McDonald’s at 2005 W. Chicago Ave, said.

“I was a single parent for many years and I know how hard it is to raise children alone,” said Gabriela Rivero of Arise Chicago, a faith-based workers advocacy group. “I was making more than $8.25/hour and I struggled. I cannot imagine trying to support a family on that salary, and most of these people don’t even work full time. They get a few hours here and there, they go to work for two hours or one hour and they are sent back home with $8.25 or $16. They spend more money sometimes going to work than they make that day.”

McDonald’s posted a statement online in response to the May 15 protests that said the corporation “respects our employees’ right to voice their opinions and to protest lawfully and peacefully…We respect the right of employees to choose whether or not they want to unionize.”

McDonald’s did not acknowledge the demand for $15 an hour. The day prior to the protests, the National Restaurant Association made an economic argument on its website that raising the minimum wage would be counterproductive for low-income people.

“A dramatic increase to labor costs… is not the comprehensive solution to income inequality-it will only hurt business owners’ ability to create entry level jobs,” read the statement on the NRA website. “Instead of demonizing an industry that opens doors for workers of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels, the focus should be on finding better solutions to lift individuals out of poverty.”

Marissa Page
StreetWise Editorial Intern

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