By Cydney Salvador, Media Intern
This Labor Day, Chicago witnessed one of the largest fast food strikes in city history as part of the Fight for $15 movement, with the help of homeless workers and leaders from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
In the U.S and around the world, minimum-wage workers in healthcare, fast food, janitorial services, and customer services went on strike during the September 4 National Day of Action. Almost 5,000 people rallied in support of strikers, according to Chicago Fight for $15.
The rally was a partial response to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 81 on August 25 – a bill approved by legislators that proposed a graduated, 5-year increase in the minimum wage, to $15 by 2022.
The Illinois minimum wage has been stuck at $8.25/hour since 2010.
In November 2014, 63.7% of Illinois voters approved an advisory referendum to raise the state wage to $10 by January 2015, but it failed to pass the legislature.
Reacting to pressure from Fight for $15, the city of Chicago approved graduated increases in the minimum wage in 2015, with the wage now at $11/hour. The city wage will reach $13/hour by 2019, with annual increases according to the Consumer Price Index. The Cook County Board also enacted a graduated “living wage” ordinance – but about half of the county’s 130+ suburbs opted out of increasing the local wage to $10/hour on July 1, and $13/hour by 2020.
“I fight because I was formerly homeless,” said Keith Freeman, CCH’s lead organizer for Fight for $15. “I understand what that experience feels like. You can’t survive on minimum wage.”
The day included supporting strikers at the Pilsen McDonald’s at West 18th Street and South Blue Island Avenue, and the American Hospital Association headquarters. Ralliers heard speeches by the Rev. Dr. William Barber, founder of the Moral Mondays movement, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. The day concluded with a back-to-school barbeque on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus.
“I support having unions because they bring stability and benefits to employees who would not usually get them,” Freeman said. “Unions even the playing field in the workplace.”
CCH brought 213 homeless workers, leaders and their children to the Labor Day rally and event. Participants came from Amani House, Breakthrough Urban Ministries, Madonna House and HGS Shelters, Olive Branch Mission, Single Room Housing Assistance Corporation, and You Can Make It. Bus captains were CCH leaders Derrick Bertha, Valerie Griffin, Lynda Moree, and John Owens.
The next day, Fight for $15 supported striking minimum-wage employees who encounter difficulties with
The Fight for $15 movement began four years ago and has succeeded in New York state, California, and Seattle. CCH joins in furthering the cause of homeless and low-wage workers by supporting striking workers across the city.