Hundreds of fast food and retail employees in Chicago began a mass walkout Wednesday morning, calling for the city’s minimum wage to be raised to $15 an hour.
WLS-TV reported that the protest, organized by the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC), included employees from national store chains ranging from McDonald’s to Sears to Victoria’s Secret, most of whom currently make $8.25 an hour, a wage that WOCC members said forces workers to use social service programs like RentAid to make ends meet.
“We need wages that we can survive on and support our families,” said committee member Lorraine Sanchez. “These are poverty wages and homelessness wages, and our workers are working two or three jobs, supporting families.”
According to MSNBC, the “Fight for 15” campaign, modeled after a November 2012 protest in New York City, is calling for workers to have the right to unionize, on top of the pay increase. The group said a single parent would need to earn at least $21 an hour to be able to comfortably raise a child in the city.
In a statement, McDonald’s said its workers are paid competitive wages and have access to benefits and training opportunities to help them advance within the company.
“The majority of McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago and across the country are owned and operated by independent business men and women,” the company’s statement said. “Both our company and franchised-owned restaurants work hard every day to treat McDonald’s employees with dignity and respect.”
The campaign has scheduled a rally for 3:30 p.m. CST at St. James Cathedral.
Watch video from the protest early Wednesday morning, aired by WLS, below.