Workers from fast food and retail chains along State Street walk off their jobs Wednesday in a protest for higher wages. | John H. White~Sun-Times
Starting at about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, workers walked off the job at about 30 downtown establishments, seeking higher wages. Affected locations included Subway, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Macy's, Sears and Victoria's Secret.
The labor action was conducted by the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, which was formed Nov. 15. It uses the slogan, "Fight for 15," meaning wages of $15 an hour. Right now, the workers average under $10.
It's a new labor tactic because the workers are not employed by the same company. They don't even work in the same industry.
Whether they can succeed, building up their numbers, remains to be seen.
Illinois' minimum wage now stands at $8.25, a dollar higher than the federal minimum. Some business leaders say raising wages would force businesses to lay off workers or cut their hours.
UPDATE 2:45 P.M. APRIL 24: The Rev. Liz Munoz, associate priest at St. James Cathedral at 65 E. Huron, said several hundred workers went on strike in the area of the Magnificent Mile Wednesday. She said at least two Subways, a Popeye's Chicken and a beauty supply store had to close their doors because they didn't have enough workers.
"It is not organizing like a shop at a particular location, but rather workers in these industries have decided to organize a union where all the companies are being asked to pay a living wage and asked to respect the right of the workers to organize," Munoz said.
A coalition of grass-roots group is supporting the workers, she said, adding that it is the first time this labor tactic has been used in Chicago.
A rally for the workers was scheduled for 4 p.m. at the cathedral.
Read an April 6 Sun-Times editorial about the minimum wage here.
Read an April 24 Sun-Times news story here.
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