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21 Protesters Arrested At Mag Mile Demonstration For Raising Minimum Wage

By aaroncynic in News on Dec 24, 2012 7:00PM

Police arrested 21 people Saturday as more than 200 demonstrators marched to Water Tower Place demanding a raise to the minimum wage. Workers and supporters with the Fight For 15 movement, along with members of several other groups took to the streets chanting, “@e can’t survive on $8.25” and singing modified Christmas carols highlighting wage disparity between CEOs and rank-and-file workers. The day culminated in 21 arrests during a sit-in at Water Tower Place on Pearson Avenue.

“We’re struggling to make ends meet, we are struggling to pay bills and we are just asking for a liveable wage of $15 an hour so that we can be able to support our families,” Darrius Smith told CBS Chicago. A retired Chicago Police officer echoed Smith’s statement, telling CBS “Companies have made millions of dollars but have refused to recognize the people that have been making the money for them, the lowly workers.”

Earlier this month, the organizations Action Now and Stand Up! Chicago released two reports on the minimum wage. The first, called “A Case For $15: A Low Wage Work Crisis” highlights their argument that wages could be raised to $15 from $8.25 with little impact on the profits of many downtown businesses. The study states the cost of raising wages for all downtown workers in retail and food service would cost $103 million, and would spur an extra $179 million in economic activity. Additionally, for every 25 workers getting a wage bump, one full-time job would be created.

David Vite, head of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association told Crain’s the idea was “ludicrous” and said that the plan would “wipe out” the less than 2 percent profit share he said retailers typically take in. Vite also defended CEOs who rake in big dollars. The report shows CEOs for downtown stores average an hourly compensation rate of more than $4,011, which Vite said they receive for “the value the bring to the company.”

The second report was published in conjunction with the Chicago Teacher’s Union, and found that a wage increase for low income families would lead to improvements for students in Chicago Public Schools. According to the report, a one parent/one child family would have to earn $35,859 annually to meet their basic needs, more than double the earnings of a person taking in $8.25 an hour. It recommends education policy acknowledge the link between poverty and educational outcomes, as well as support for efforts to raise the minimum wage. Al Ramirez, a teacher at Ruiz Elementary school said in a press release:

“Why wouldn’t everyone support higher wages for impoverished Chicago students and their families? It would go a long way. I’ve seen my students deal with poverty on a day-to-day basis and can see the impact. Whether it’s students coming to school hungry or without appropriate winter clothes, the lack of resources clearly takes away from their focus on learning.”