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Retail, Fast Food Workers Rally For National Strike

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 30, 2013 7:40PM

Scores of retail and fast food workers staged another one-day walkoff from their jobs Thursday as part of a national strike called by labor organizations. Workers in Chicago took to the streets demanding the better working conditions, better wages, and the right to form a union. They began their day in front of the Rock n' Roll McDonald’s in River North, where more than a hundred demonstrators were joined by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

“I am so proud to be here today with these striking workers,” said Schakowsky. “They are among thousands and thousands of low wage workers around the country who have a really reasonable and simple request—and that is they be paid a living wage—$15 an hour and the right to form a union.” Schakowsky also called out McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson on wage disparity. “He makes in two or three hours at work what his employees make in a year. Is this fair?”

Tyree Johnson, a McDonald’s employee for 21 years, said he still makes minimum wage, $8.25 an hour. Johnson told reporters “Every time I ask for a raise, they tell me ‘You shouldn’t have joined that union, we’re not giving you no raise.” Nancy Selgado, another McDonald’s employee, said “We’re here to form a union without retaliation. We need to support our families. As workers, we all have different stories, and this is why we’re here.” Shortly after the press conference out front, Selgado, accompanied by Schakowsky and the other workers entered the location and attempted to deliver a letter with their demands. “Who’s gonna take this? C’mon guys, brave up,” Selgado said as she left the letter on the counter. “Show respect to us, we’re workers just like you,” she added.

The strike extended to other cities in Illinois with workers in both Peoria and Bloomington also took part in the national strike. “I know I feel sick to my stomach because I can't provide for my son,” Brittany Green told the Journal Star. Green, a single mother working at McDonald’s, receives public assistance because of her low wages. She worries about other workers at her restaurant. “There are women working at these restaurants who have three or four children,” she said.

Back in Chicago, small groups of workers went from one retail or fast food location to another in the loop and River North, delivering similar letters as the one Selgado left at McDonald’s that morning. The day culminated in a rally in Federal Plaza in the late afternoon with speakers and music. After congratulating the striking workers, Charles Brown, an organizer with Action Now connected the dots between low wages and the violence that plagues Chicago:

“Chicago has the third largest poverty rate in America. These high levels of poverty create the conditions of violence and crime in our neighborhoods. Raising wages for Chicago low wage workers and creating more good paying jobs is the most effective way to save our lives and build stronger families and neighborhoods.”