At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, they turned up the political heat on Emanuel by introducing an ordinance that would phase in a requirement that Chicago businesses pay their employees $15 an hour.
Companies with more than $50 million in annual revenue would be required to pay $12.50 an hour within 90 days of passage and $15 an hour within a year.
Small- and medium-sized companies would have 15 months to get to $12 an hour, two years to pay $13 an hour, three years to reach $14 an hour and four years to get to $15 an hour. After that, Chicago’s minimum wage would rise annually to match the inflation rate.
For waitresses and other employees who rely on tips, the minimum wage would be 70 percent of the full minimum wage.
Fast-food workers are planning a global strike for better pay and working conditions, with actions set to take place in 150 U.S. cities and 32 other countries in a bid to exert pressure on multinational companies.
Strikes are planned for May 15 across five continents in countries including Morocco, Japan, India, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, Argentina and New Zealand, where workers will stage a protest at the McDonald’s headquarters in Auckland, according to a statement by activist group Fast Food Forward. Other strikes will target Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC.
The actions were announced Wednesday in Manhattan, New York, at a meeting during which fast-food workers and union leaders detailed how they intended to expand a movement that began with a walkout in November 2012. On that occasion, some 200 workers went on strike in New York City, demanding a pay increase of $15 per hour and the right to unionize without retaliation.
“Fast food workers are walking out on their jobs today to once again protest low wages, demand the right to unionize and fight for better working conditions. The strikes are occurring in 50 cities including New York City, where there are multiple walk-outs plus a rally planned.
The first walkout was at the McDonald’s at 341 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn was there, as was City Council Member and Public Advocate hopeful Letitia James. James invoked Martin Luther King Jr., quoting the civil rights leader, “It is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.””
“NEW YORK (Reuters) – Fast-food workers staged strikes at McDonald’s and Burger Kings and demonstrated at other stores in sixty U.S. cities on Thursday in their latest action in a nearly year-long campaign to raise wages in the service sector.
The strikes spread quickly across the country and have shut down restaurants in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Raleigh and Seattle, according to organizers.”
Chicago Fast Food, Retail Workers Go On Strike For Higher Wages
Photo credit: Ryan L. Williams
Hundreds of retail and fast food workers went on a coordinated strike this morning to call for a living wage of $15 an hour and the right to unionize without interference.
Democracy Now! was there when workers at dozens of restaurants owned by McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell and others went on strike Thursday and rallied in a bid for fair pay and union recognition. Organizers with the Fast Food Forward campaign are seeking an increased pay rate of $15 an hour, about double what the minimum-wage workers are making. Workers and their allies demanded a wage that would let them support their families. Martyna Starosta filed this report.
Fast-food workers walked off the job in New York City Thursday to hold a series of rallies and picket lines in what has been called the largest series of worker actions ever to hit the country’s fast-food industry. Hundreds of workers at dozens of restaurants owned by McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and others went on strike and rallied in a bid for fair pay and union recognition. Organizers with the Fast Food Forward campaign are seeking an increased pay rate of $15 an hour, about double what the minimum-wage workers are making. Workers and their allies demanded a wage that would let them support their families. Democracy Now! co-host Juan González spoke to many of the striking workers for his latest New York Daily News column, “One-day strike by fast-food workers at McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurants is just the beginning.” [includes rush transcript]
“When a restaurant/hospitality worker complains about not making a living, they are often told things like “no one is forcing you to work in a restaurant” or “it is your choice where you work” or “you just need to improve your working skills to make your work product more valuable and businesses will pay you more” or sometimes even “no one owes you a living.”
You see and hear comments like that all the time.
Why doesn’t that apply to business? Aren’t you choosing to run a restaurant? If the margins are so low in food, why don’t you open a bank or a gold mine? It’s your choice you know. Or maybe if you just brush up on your entrepreneurial skills you can think of a better business to invest your capital in. How about “no one owes you a restaurant?”
I am not trying to be harsh, but I am applying the same logic and the same free market analysis to you as a business owner that is often applied to the working poor”
While boisterous protests targeted Chicago-area Walmarts Friday, a new local union formed in mid-November coordinated a second wave of actions calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, well beyond a gradual statewide increase to $10.55 that may be approved next year.
The activities were part of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago’s “Fight for 15” campaign. The committee says it already includes employees at more than 100 businesses. After supporting the Walmart rallies, committee members marched down Michigan Avenue and rallied both outside and inside Water Tower Place.
“NYC isn’t the only place fast food workers are in revolt. Today’s strike follows a founding convention held earlier this month by an linked organization, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago. WWOC claims 200-some members in fast food and retail. Its most dramatic actions took place on Black Friday, when workers leafleted and demonstrated at major companies and dropped a banner inside of Macy’s (they also joined pickets in support of local Wal-Mart workers). “We’re getting all the workers together and we’re standing up against CEOs,” said WOCC member Brittney Smith. “Because there’s more workers than there are CEOs.” Smith, a college student who recently quit her job at the retail chain Express and took a similar job at American Apparel, said she now makes $8.75 an hour. “Some of the time I luck out and I can eat two meals a day,” she said. “But most of the time, I’m eating one.”
Like FFWC in New York, WOCC is a new independent union made up of workers tied together by a shared city and similarly low wages, not a single employer. Both FFWC and WOCC are backed by unions and labor community groups, and so far aren’t recognized by any employers. And they’re making the same demands: allow a fair process for unionization and start paying $15 an hour. Organizers say that could be achieved through union contracts with individual companies, or through joint bargaining with several employers at once. Either way, it’s a heavy lift.
The New York and Chicago campaigns evoke two strategies that have been long debated but infrequently attempted in U.S. labor. First, “minority unionism”: mobilizing workers to take dramatic actions and make demands on management prior to showing support from the majority of employees. Second, “geographic organizing”: collaboration between multiple unions to organize workers at several employers and win public support for raising a region’s standards through unionization. This campaign is also the latest example in which community-based organizing groups, which unions have long leaned on to drum up support for workers, are playing a major role in directly organizing workers to win union recognition.”