Fight for 15 Statement On $15 Living Wage Referendum

The Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC) of the Fight for 15 campaign applauds the work of the Raise Chicago Coalition to place a non-binding referendum on the March ballot asking if the city should require a minimum wage of $15 per hour for employees of companies with an annual gross revenue in excess of $50 million, such as McDonald’s.

Charde Nabors, a low-wage Sears’ worker and single mother of two, also considers this referendum a step in the right direction. “I’m very supportive because every working family needs a living wage to cover rent, food, transportation, and just to live in a stable environment. WOCC members and I will continue to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation because these corporations can no longer get away with paying us so little that we have to rely on public assistance. This referendum shows the momentum behind our Fight for 15 and how much the public recognizes increasing inequality is an issue for our entire community.”

Chicago’s referendum for a $15 an hour minimum wage follows the unprecedented actions by WOCC and other groups across the nation. Founded in November of 2012, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago is a union of fast food and retail workers. The workers’ Fight for 15 campaign seeks a $15 an hour wage from fast-food and retail corporations and the right to form a union without retaliation. WOCC members have gone out on strike four times this year and have held more than 50 actions throughout the year. Most recently, Chicago workers were part of national day of strikes on December 5th in over 100 cities.

Fast food is a $200 billion a year industry and retail is a $4.7 trillion industry, yet many service workers across the country earn minimum wage or just above it and are forced to rely on public assistance programs to provide for their families and get healthcare for their children. Nationally, the median wage for cooks, cashiers and crew at fast-food restaurants is just $8.94 an hour. In the Chicago metro area there are 275,000 low wage fast food and retail workers. An adult with one child needs to make $20.86 an hour working full time in the Chicago area just to afford the basics, according to a model developed by a professor at MIT.

Low-wage jobs have accounted for the bulk of new jobs added in the recovery, and retail and fast food are among the fastest-growing sectors, slowing the recovery and hurting our local economy. A recent study from the Economic Policy Institute finds that wages were flat or declined for the bottom 60 percent of workers from 2000 to 2012, even while productivity grew by 25 percent over this same period. And while median household income has risen, according to a new study, it is still more than 6 percent below pre-recession levels. That loss in income has been most acute among low-wage workers, who have also seen a disproportionate drop in real wages in the recovery.

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Founded in November of 2012, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago is a union of fast food and retail workers. The workers’ Fight for 15 campaign seeks a $15 an hour wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. The Fight for 15 campaign is supported by a coalition of dozens of community, labor and faith-based groups including: Action Now; Albany Park Neighborhood Council; Arise Chicago; Brighton Park Neighborhood Council; Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; Chicago Jobs with Justice; Chicago Teachers Union; Grassroots Collaborative; Illinois Hunger Coalition; Jane Addams Senior Caucus; Lakeview Action Coalition; Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP); SEIU Local 1; SEIU Local 73; SEIU Healthcare Illinois; Indiana, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation; United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Western Region; and Workers United.

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