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Hundreds Protest In Chicago As Part Of National Fast Food Strike

By aaroncynic in News on Dec 6, 2013 8:45PM

Photo credit: aaroncynic/Chicagoist

Hundreds of protesters marched through the Loop yesterday as part of a nationwide one day strike in more than 100 cities calling for higher wages for fast food and other retail workers.

Under a looming Mr. Grinch puppet, demonstrators first picketed the McDonald’s on Damen and Chicago at 6 a.m. “We make millions of dollars for these corporations and have nothing to show for it,” said Jessica Davis, a 25-year-old employee from the location who’s been with McDonald’s for four years. Thursday was her first strike.

“I was tired of not getting enough hours, working hard getting no money. I spend as much time working as hard as I can and at the end of the pay period and I don’t have enough money to pay for living expenses.”

Davis makes $8.88 an hour said she has to rely on public assistance and borrowing money to supplement her income. Her story is common among low wage workers across the country and one of the reasons organizers are demanding higher wages. According to a study published in October, 52 percent of fast food workers have enrolled their families in public assistance programs.

At 9 a.m. the protests hit the Loop, beginning at another McDonald’s inside a food court at the 233 North Michigan Avenue building. As hundreds picketed up and down South Water Street, building security allowed three workers to deliver a message to management inside. Workers carried signs in clear plastic bags as a way of calling out management for its policy of making them bring their personal belongings in transparent bags, in order to “prevent theft.”

Photo credit: aaroncynic/Chicagoist
Demonstrators then marched to several other retail locations in the Loop, many of which have been sites for similar protests this year. Outside Walgreens on State and Madison as protesters chanted “We can’t survive on $8.25,” Dejaun Jackson, a 23-year-old employee told reporters “I don’t want a handout, I want to take care of my family on my own.” The Guardian reports Jackson, who makes $10.49 an hour, said his main reasons for demanding an increase to $15 an hour are to move his family out of their current neighborhood after a shooting took place outside his house. “"All I want to be able to do is for my kids to be able to go in the front yard and just go play. They can't even play outside,” he said.

After more than a year’s worth of demonstrations, the movement is getting more traction with politicians. At a rally in Washington, D.C. Illinois Congresswoman Jan Shakowski joined workers in calling on President Obama to issue an order which would force companies contracting with the federal government to pay a living wage. Think Progress reports Shakowski said:

“We had a conversation last election about the makers and the takers, about the 1 percent and the 99 percent, and Barack Obama won that election. They can be the makers if they have money in their pockets!”

The protests in Chicago culminated in a series of smaller demonstrations in the late afternoon at locations throughout the city, including a Wendy’s on the north side, a McDonald’s on the south side and another McDonald’s on Cermak near Western Avenue. As several dozen demonstrators lined the sidewalk in front of the location, numerous cars and even a passing freight train honked their horns in support. Standing at the drive thru exit holding two signs that read “Fight For 15,” a demonstrator who identified herself as Maria said she could see the effects of the protests as they happened. “A couple who was driving through skipped stopping and pulled up to me instead and asked how they could help. I told them to join us,” she said. While it was unclear if the couple parked their car to join the rally, they skipped ordering dinner from McDonald’s that evening.