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Low-Wage Workers Call For National Strike

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 19, 2013 7:00PM

Protesters at "Fight for 15" strikes in August. (Photo credit: Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist)

Retail and fast food workers called out for a nationwide strike today to take place Aug. 29. The workers and their supporters have been staging strikes in Chicago, New York, Kansas City, Detroit and other cities across the country for months demanding a hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour and the right to unionize. Hundreds of workers and several labor organizations in Chicago recently participated in two days of walkouts and protests earlier this month.

Nancy Salgado, a single mother who has worked at a Chicago McDonald’s for the past 10 years said in a press release:

“We are united in our belief that every job should pay workers enough to meet basic needs such as food and housing. Our families, communities, and economy all depend on workers earning a living wage.”

Organizers say the strikes will hit fast food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, as well as retail outlets such as Sears, Macy’s and Dollar Tree Stores. Chicago’s protests at the beginning of the month saw walkouts at some of those locations along with Whole Foods, Sally Beauty Supply, Walgreen's and others. Supporters of the strikes say that large corporations can afford pay increases for rank and file employees when the industry sees $200 billion a year in revenue.

"It’s time for these big fast-food and retail companies to pay up. They can afford to pay us more and have a responsibility to ensure the workers who keep their businesses booming don’t live in poverty," said Latrice Arnold, a Wendy’s employee from Detroit. Recent data has suggested low wages from big box retailers and fast food chains hurt American taxpayer’s—regardless of whether or not they’re a low wage worker—because thousands of employees are also on government aid. CNN Money reported in June that one study showed 3,216 Walmart employees, America’s largest private employer, were enrolled in public health care programs in Wisconsin.

Additionally, demographics of low wage workers has changed over the years. While the assumption might be fast food chains are staffed with younger people looking for some extra cash, the Economic Policy Institute released a study that showed 8 out of 10 workers making $7.25 an hour are older than 20, and half those work 40 hours a week. Researchers from the EPI told the Washington Post “It is clear that the bulk of minimum wage workers are mid- or full-time adult employees, not teenagers or part-times.”