“Fight for $15” Starts Today in Chicago – Retail & Fast Food Workers Organize!

via Chicago Tribune

Thursday at noon, low-wage food and retail workers will rally with supporters at St. James Cathedral in Chicago (map) to kick off a union organizing campaign and to demand that local employers boost their wages to a minimum of $15 an hour.

The minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 an hour —  $16,500 a year; organizers say that the average retail worker wage is $9.80 an hour — $19,600 a year.  And though a 50 percent raise sounds very ambitious during these tough times, it still would only bring these workers up to $30,000 a year.

What follows is an edited version of an email Q & A  I conducted with  Zoe Bridges-Curry, spokeswoman for the coalition of groups supporting the workers:

Q. What is the agenda for Thursday’s event?

A Workers are planning to hold an 11 a.m. meeting closed to the media at which they will vote on forming a union and generate a list initial demands for that union. If they choose to vote to form a union (and that seems very likely), the plan is to then hold a press conference/rally outside the church at noon to announce the formation of the union, to give testimony about why they’re standing together to lift the wages and benefits floor in Chicago, and then to march along the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue north of the Chicago River) making announcements at their places of work about their newly formed union and demands.

Q. What is the name of the event?

The workers are unofficially calling the event the Fight for Fifteen Worker Convention. A name for the union itself will be decided on Thursday.

Q. Who are the sponsors/organizers?

A. Workers have formed a steering committee, which is the group planning the meeting. Organizers from community group Action Now have been working with and supporting the workers and, more recently, the Stand Up! Chicago coalition (of which Action Now is a member) has been providing support.

Q. Can you be more specific about who these workers are?

A. They include both retail and restaurant (fast food) employees with many of the fast food employees making minimum wage or just slightly above minimum wage. The average retail worker wage is slightly higher, around $9.80.

Q. What would a raise  to $15 a hour mean to them?

A. It would mean that they would live in neighborhoods with less crime, that their children would do better in school and have better chances for future economic security, and it would mean that their family members and neighbors would experience lower unemployment.

A minimum wage of $15 an hour would boost the economy both in the neighborhoods where workers live and throughout the city, and would be the most efficient way to address growing crime and poor student achievement.
Fifteen dollars an hour is a minimum level at which most workers can expect to be able to meet their most basic needs. Since the majority of retail and restaurant workers in the Magnificent Mile currently make much less than that, every worker has stories to tell about doing without basic necessities.

They have to make difficult choices between medicine or a doctor visit for a sick child and groceries, paying to keep the phone or electricity on or paying rent.

During the holiday season, it means that the workers who sell high-end gifts for shopping families are unable to buy gifts for their own children–or have to resort to used toys from Goodwill. Even with employee discounts, workers cannot afford to buy meals at their own workplace.

the rest of the post is at:  http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2012/11/15.html

New Food & Retail Workers Union!  http://fightfor15.org/2012/11/15/hello-world/

Fight for 15 (Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago)  https://www.facebook.com/Fightfor15

Action Now:  http://actionnowdotorg.wordpress.com/

Stand Up! Chicago:  http://standupchicago.org/we-make-chicago-the-city-that-works-but-is-chicago-working-for-us/

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