On Thursday, December 13th, Action Now members joined the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago and other community, labor and faith organizations for a rally and march downtown to demand that retail and restaurant workers be paid a living wage to help improve community problems caused by poverty!
Hundreds of workers and community members from every neighborhood in Chicago gathered outside of Tribune Tower to call attention to the fact that when workers suffer on poverty wages, our communities suffer as well. Action Now leader Charles Brown, a retired police officer and Englewood resident, spoke at the rally about how low wages lead to increased crime and violence in his neighborhood.
Robert Wilson Jr., a seven year employee of McDonald’s at Navy Pier said, “I have a step-child to look after, medical bills I can’t afford and student loans I have to pay off, but I’m not making enough money.” Wilson makes $8.35 per hour. “We work hard for little pay and we deserve way more than what we’re getting,” he said.
Liz Muñoz, assistant priest at St. James Cathedral, read a letter that ralliers would deliver to the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association (GNMAA), which is the business association for the Magnificent Mile. Munoz read, “Every day tens of thousands of workers stream out of our neighborhoods to work downtown and every year their work brings over $4 billion through downtown cash registers. Every week workers return to their communities with paychecks too small to provide even a subsistence living for themselves and their families.”
Workers and supporters then marched down the Magnificent Mile chanting outside of stores and then stopped at GNMAA to deliver their letter. This march and rally was a powerful show of strength for the WOCC and allies, and highlighted every workers basic right to be paid a living wage to help their families, their communities and the economy!
Low wage workers are rising up all over the country and fighting for a decent wage. Most notably, fast food workers in New York City have formed a new union similar to WOCC to fight for a living wage! See below for articles on the low wage worker fight and coverage of the WOCC Neighborhoods march:
L.A. Times, “Push for minimum wage hike intensifies as worker ranks swell” (Action Now mentioned and former lead organizer Madeline Talbott quoted)
Talbott, the Action Now organizer, says that people such as Rose may make a difference in whether lawmakers at the state and national level will listen to the protests. The Obama victory energized the working class to believe that they could fight against big-money interests and win, she said.
“It comes down to the traditional situation — whether the power is in the hands of organized money or of organized people,” she said. “The organized money side tends to win, but it doesn’t have to win. The more people you are, the more chance you have against money.”
Bloomberg News, “McDonald’s $8.25 Man and $8.75 Million CEO Shows Pay Gap”
“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.”
Progress Illinois, “Hundreds Descend On The Magnificent Mile To Rally For A Higher Minimum Wage”
In These Times, “The ‘Fight for Fifteen’ Is On”
NY Amsterdam News, “Service workers of all kinds want higher wages, talk fiscal cliff”