Workers from McDonald's, Nike, Sears, Subway, Wholefoods, Victoria's Secret and others in Chicago's downtown Loop area went on strike today, demanding a $15/hour minimum wage and the ability to unionize.
McDonald's employees were joined by low-wage employees in Chicago's Loop area in a strike. PHOTO: Public domain
Workers from McDonald's, Nike, Sears, Subway, Wholefoods, Victoria's Secret and others in Chicago's downtown Loop area went on strike today, demanding a $15/hour minimum wage and the ability to unionize. The Loop is situated between the north and south sides of the city, and it is the commercial and tourist center of Chicago. A strike there is disruptive, and if it continues, economically damaging, which is why the businesses suffering from it will likely be quick to negotiate. Organizers estimated that 500 workers joined the strike.
“At the end of the day,” Macy’s employee Krystal Maxie-Collins told Salon, “it feels like I’ve done all of this to help everyone else, to help the store, help the managers, help the customers, but it doesn’t feel like anyone is looking out for me.” Maxie-Collins receives $8.25/hr plus a commission, which is barely enough for one person in Chicago, but she has four children. “Usually the things that are worth it,” she added, “you have to sacrifice for,” she added, speaking to the fear and risks associated with striking.
While $15/hr is not going to happen anytime soon, downtown businesses are in a difficult spot, given the size of the strike--all those workers can't be replaced expediently--and the strike may extract some concessions from their employers. The problem that all of those national chains face is that they don't want to establish a precedent. If McDonald's workers strike and get their $15/hr, you can expect Mcdonald's workers in other cities making half that will start making some demands. For that reason, employers actually do want to drag this out a little, to not make extracting concessions seem too easy.
As for what should happen, workers should get a living wage, but it shouldn't be up to Subway, Sears and Victoria's Secret to decide if that should happen. Congress should enact Obama's request for a federal minimum wage of $9 (they won't) and other states should raise it from there. Illinois has a minimum wage of $8.25, and Governor Quinn has proposed raising it to $10. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel could raise the city's minimum wage, but he likely will only do that if he wants to save the businesses from a sticky situation (Rahm has always been pro-big business).
We have a clunky system that does not ensure that people working full-time get enough to live on. The government should alleviate that, but until then, sorry McDonald's, that's up to you.