Fight For 15 is a newly formed Chicago union that is made up of downtown workers in the retail and food workers industry. The union is fighting for better living wages to eliminate urban poverty which is a major cause of violence. These downtown workers are also aligned with grassroots organizations such as Action Now, Stand Up Chicago Arise Chicago, and Occupy Chicago.
Over the holiday season, the groups have held three protest marches to bring awareness to raising the minimum wage in Chicago from $8.25 to $15.00 per hour. Marches were on Black Friday (November 23rd, 2012), December 13th and December 22nd on Michigan Avenue. This area along with Chicago’s loop brings in over $4 billion a year in retail and restaurant sales. With this kind sales volume, there should be enough revenue to provide retail workers a real living wage with fair working hours. Right now, most retail workers have to work well over 40 hours a week to hours to make ends meet. The majority of them are living in poverty.
The union’s message is that a higher working wage of $15.00 will stimulate local economies on the South and West side of Chicago where most of the poverty exists, and where most of these workers live. With this extra money going into the communities, it will decrease the crime rate and increase local employment in Chicago neighborhoods.
I support Fight For 15 because people deserve a living wage that will enable them to pay bills, buy food and school supplies for their children. More important, they will have a little extra money left over instead of just getting by. While increasing the minimum wage to $15.00 dollars an hour is unrealistic, 70% of Illinois voters do agree that the minimum wage should be increased to stay in line with current inflation rates. A state bill has been submitted that proposes to increase the minimum wage 50 cents each year plus inflation. This would bring the minimum wage rate to $10.65 by 2014. Workers who could earn $15.00 an hour before 2014 are restaurant staff that receive tips. The bill proposes that all restaurant employees receive the full minimum wage versus being paid almost half the going rate of $4.95 that they earn today. Even at the wage of $8.25, wait staff could easily make $15.00+ an hour working working an average lunch shift if you add in their tips to the new salary. With over a half a million people employed by the restaurant industry in Illinois, increasing their wage from $4.95 to $8.25 could give the Illinois economy a much needed boost while increasing jobs and decreasing violence in Chicago neighborhoods. Check out the group’s page including information about upcoming marches and events at fightfor15.org and for information about the minimum wage, visit raisetheminimumwage.org
** Written By Peter Myers **
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