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$15 minimum wage

 … Polls have confirmed that Americans from across the political and ideological spectrum are overwhelmingly in favor of a substantial increase in the minimum wage. And election results are now confirming the sentiment.

Now comes a powerful signal from Chicago.

When voters in the city went to the polls to cast ballots in Tuesday’s statewide and local primary elections, thousands of them faced an economic question: Would they support a $15-an-hour minimum wage for large employers in the city?

The results were overwhelming. With 100 of the 103 precincts where the issue was on the ballot reporting, 87 percent of voters were backing the $15-an-hour wage. Just 13 percent voted against the advisory referendum. That huge level of support will strengthen the hand of activists who are encouraging the city council to consider a major wage hike.

The Chicago vote illustrates a phenomenon that is being seen in many of the nation’s largest—and most expensive—urban areas.

“With inequality at record levels, more workers relying on public assistance just to afford the basics, and the federal minimum wage stalled at just $7.25, more and more cities are responding with higher minimum wages at the local level,” says Paul Sonn, general counsel for the National Employment Law Project. “We’re seeing this especially in high cost regions where the state-wide minimum wage just isn’t enough.”


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Bob Simpson reports on how Fight for 15 activists in Chicago celebrated International Women’s Day—by demonstrating for the rights of low-wage workers.

"Unlike nations which have rational labor policies like sick leave, paid parental leave, affordable child care, vacation time, generous retirement and which protect the right to organize a union, the USA has chosen the opposite course. This has led to some of the worst inequality in the developed world, which because of our rampant gender and racial discrimination, falls heaviest on women, particularly women of color."

Chicago McDonalds workers demand respect for female employees (Bob Simpson | SW)

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S Day (IWD), March 8, was originally inspired by the historic 1909 “Uprising of the 20,000,” a garment workers strike of women in New York City, many of them immigrants. They demanded better pay, better working conditions and the right to join a union.

So it made sense that the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC), which leads the Fight for 15 campaign in the city, should celebrate International Women’s Day by standing up for the rights of women workers in 2014.

A Chicago McDonald’s worker named Carmen Navarrette had been told that she “should put a bullet through her head,” because she had requested permission to go home after becoming very ill at work. She is a diabetic and had just been released from the hospital.

As a result, dozens of WOCC members and supporters marched into a North Side McDonald’s on International Women’s Day to demand an end to this kind of discrimination and verbal abuse.

On the morning of March 8, a smaller group of WOCC members and allies picketed a North Side Chicago Whole Foods and demanded the reinstatement of Rhiannon Brochat. She was fired after she stayed home with her special needs child when Chicago schools were closed on the worst day of the Polar Vortex.

McDonald’s and Whole Foods may seem like very different companies, but their attitude toward women workers is remarkably similar.


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My personal opinion is that if the politicians who decry a raise in the minimum wage were really concerned about small businesses, they would set up a way to offer subsidies to these companies that truly could not financially afford to pay their workers above poverty-level wages.

Barring that, I frankly think if there is a small company that cannot afford to pay its workers a living wage, then that company either needs to change its practices, or face the fact that it should not be in business at all.

I’m reminded of the old “small” plantation owners who complained that they would “go out of business” if not for the slave labor which they depended upon. The response by abolitionists? Too bad.

If it is absolutely necessary for you to employ slave labor, or only pay poverty wages to employees, in order to run a business, then you frankly should not be in business. If your success as a “small business” is directly predicated upon the impoverishment of American workers, then you are part of the problem.

For the truth of the matter is that the crushing poverty faced by millions of low-income American workers is far more of a national crisis than the potential inability of various small-to-mid-level capitalists to run their tiny little niche-market operation.

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Pay Congress Minimum Wage.

Pay Congress Minimum Wage.


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Millennials turn up heat against low wages
By Emily Jane Fox | January 6, 2014: 7:10 AM ET
Millennials are starting to get restless for change.

Stuck in low-wage or part-time jobs with mountains of student loans to pay off, the generation that came of age in the new millennium finds itself in a hopeless situation. Despite being better educated than previous generations, many young people are shut out of the middle class with no road map of how to get there.







So many of them are joining protests, showing up at rallies, or forming unions to improve their situation.

In the past year, millennials turned up the heat against low wages at Victoria’s Secret, Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), McDonald’s (MCD, Fortune 500), Wendy’s (WEN), KFC (YUM, Fortune 500) and others like Kaplan (GHC), which runs tutoring centers.

Millennials turn up heat against low wages

| January 6, 2014: 7:10 AM ET

Millennials are starting to get restless for change.

Stuck in low-wage or part-time jobs with mountains of student loans to pay off, the generation that came of age in the new millennium finds itself in a hopeless situation. Despite being better educated than previous generations, many young people are shut out of the middle class with no road map of how to get there.

So many of them are joining protests, showing up at rallies, or forming unions to improve their situation.

In the past year, millennials turned up the heat against low wages at Victoria’s Secret, Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), McDonald’s (MCD, Fortune 500), Wendy’s (WEN), KFC (YUM, Fortune 500) and others like Kaplan (GHC), which runs tutoring centers.


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wow. this is excellent. and huge credit should go to the thousands of domestic and home-health laborers who have been organizing for years in an effort to push the Obama administration in this direction.

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Kyle King made $8 an hour when he started working as a cashier at the Burger King across from Boston Common. Nine years later, he is up to $8.15, logging fewer hours and living with his brother in Roxbury because he can’t afford a place of his own.

King’s worsening economic condition has prompted him to make a bold decision that could cost him even more money: He plans to skip his scheduled Thursday afternoon shift at the chain’s Tremont Street restaurant.

But King isn’t quitting. Instead, he is taking part in a nationwide demonstration of fast-food employees demanding $15-an-hour wages and the right to unionize. Thousands of workers in 50 cities are expected to take part in the one-day strike. In Boston, as many as 200 fast-food employees are expected to form rolling picket lines outside nine chain restaurants — including Burger King, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts — culminating in a rally on Boston Common.

King, 45, said he realizes low-skilled workers like him are easily replaceable and that he could be fired over Thursday’s act of defiance. But he is more worried that nothing will change for those who work behind fast-food counters unless more attention is called to their cause.


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(Converted into US dollars).

(Converted into US dollars).


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Most minimum wage earners are adult women, not teenagers.

Most minimum wage earners are adult women, not teenagers.


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Fast-food workers around Seattle began their 24-hour strike on May 29 when workers at a Taco Bell in the Ballard neighborhood walked out at 10 p.m., shutting the store down. The next day, workers from Burger King, Taco del Mar, Subway, Chipotle and Qdoba walked out in a series of actions beginning in the morning and ending that evening. In total, job actions shut down 11 fast-food restaurants throughout Seattle.

About 300 fast-food workers and supporters gathered at 4 p.m. on May 30 for a rally in Denny Park. Organizers pointed out that two thirds of fast-food workers are women. Speaking to the crowd, Caroline Durocher from the Ballard Taco Bell said, “I’m on strike today to make a living wage, to make enough to eat, to afford bus fare, to live. When I went on strike and my store shut down, I felt like a person again.”


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IN A matter of few months, strikes and protests by low-wage workers have rolled through more than a half-dozen U.S. cities—with the promise of more to come, as fast-food and retail workers, from McDonald’s to Macy’s, give voice to the frustrations of millions of workers who endure low wages, poor working conditions and disrespect on the job.

These are workers—in retail, fast-food and other branches of the service sector—that many unions considered “too hard to organize” in the past. Now, workers themselves are challenging that idea—and in the process, they may play a central role in helping to revitalize the labor movement.

From city to city and workplace to workplace, the solidarity has been almost contagious. In New York City, workers walked out at McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other fast-food restaurants in late November of last year. Many said they were inspired by the Black Friday walkout by Wal-Mart workers in over 100 cities.

New York saw another strike on April 4—the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. On April 24, it was Chicago’s turn—retail and fast-food workers took part in a one-day walkout that rolled from one low-wage workplace to another and another. And there’s more—Milwaukee, St. Louis, Detroit and Washington, D.C.

 … While the strikes and walkouts seemed to come out of nowhere, every worker inside each workplace can play a key role every day in making this fight stronger. As Matthew Camp said:

These are people from a wide range of backgrounds. Most of us are working poor, but some of us are young, and some of us are old. We work in different places across the city, but to see everybody come forward and display this kind of solidarity and pick up each other’s cause is profound.

That’s the great thing about Fight for 15—it’s not really a question about what I can do in my workplace, but the idea that we won’t do well until we all do well together. There are people in Fight for 15 who have worked at McDonald’s for decades and still make less than $10 an hour. To have Whole Foods workers, who start at $10, pick up that person’s struggle as their own is incredible to me.


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