Target: Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago
Goal: To support fast food and retail workers’ efforts to increase their wages by forcing their employers to the bargaining table.
A recent wave of strikes by fast food and retail workers in New York has spread to Chicago. It is expected that some 500 low-wage workers across Chicago will be protesting to increase their pay. Employees of McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Sears will be on strike in an attempt to force their employees to pay them more than the state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. The campaign known as Fight for 15 is trying to raise wages to $15 an hour. While $15 is a lofty goal, the main impetus for the strike is simply to demand that employers recognize that their employees are due a livable wage. Employees must feel free to express their dissatisfaction with their work condition without fear of retaliation and with the support of city.
Both the fast food and service industry have been among the highest in growth since the recession. A recent study from the National Employment Law Project found that while low-wage jobs made up 21 percent of the jobs lost during the recession they accounted for 58 percent of the job growth since. Coupled with high growth rates, both industries are among the highest-grossing and lowest-paying businesses. Add to this the lack of job security and benefits, and it becomes all too clear that the current corporate model for treating low-wage workers is simply to take advantage of them—as much as possible. And while supporters of low-wages argue that the problem is a lack of skilled-training (i.e. higher education) the real problem is a lack of leverage with employers.
In Chicago, most retail jobs are non-union, as is fast food. Without a way to bring their collective bargaining power to the table, low-wage workers are left without an avenue to higher wages and better job security. Given the importance of the fast-food and retail industries to employment growth since the recession, it is vital to ensure that a stable and happy employee base exists. Many employees have voiced fear of striking due to potential retaliation from employers. So far, media attention on the issue and political support have prevented any employees in New York or Chicago from losing their jobs for going on strike. However, employees must feel secure in their ability to exercise their right to free speech and to form a union to protect their rights. Sign the petition below to show your support for higher wages and the right to protest without fear of retaliation.
Dear Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
A recent wave of low-wage employee protests that started in New York has found its way to Chicago. Employees from the service and fast food industry are on strike to protest their low wages. Most of these individuals receive the state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, which is not a livable wage. They are being taken advantage of by a corporate model that seeks to prevent employees from gaining leverage in collective bargaining in order to maximize profits for the company.
While it is up to the workers and their employers to come to an agreement about what is fair for them, it is your job to ensure that they feel secure in their ability to exercise their right to free speech. Workers must not feel as though protesting may endanger what job security they do have. Please ensure that low-wage workers are afforded the right to bring their employers to the bargaining table without being intimidated.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons