Fast food, retail workers protest for higher wages outside Union Station

April 25, 2013 6:41:41 AM PDT
Fast food and retail workers are taking to the streets of downtown Chicago to protest for higher wages.

The demonstrators, who are on strike from businesses such as McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Subway, Macy's, Sears and Victoria's Secret, gathered around Union Station early Wednesday morning. They walked off the job because they want the minimum wage of $8.25 an hour to be raised to $15 an hour to be able to support their families and the right to form a union without interference.

"I need better living wages," said Victoria's Secret employee Andrew Little. "I'm currently getting paid $9 [an hour] and that's not good enough for me right now."

Little said everything is going up, except his wages and feels trapped in his low income job.

"Since I've been here, I've been here for two years, I've only gotten a 46-cent raise all together," he said.

"I am being taken advantage of, not just me but my co-workers, as well," said Mayra Mateo. "We work so hard to bring profit to the company."

They are calling it the "Fight for 15" to get $15 an hour. The organization says that a single adult in Chicago with a child needs a wage of $21 an hour to pay for necessities, such as clothing and rent.

The group recently formed a new union, which brings together retail and fast food workers.

Many workers are forced to work two or three jobs to support a family, according to Chavez.

Robert Wilson says he's been working for McDonald's for seven years. He was recently promoted to a food trainer, but says he still only makes $8.35 an hour, which is only 10 cents above the minimum wage. He says it is not enough to survive.

"I've been struggling to take care of medical bills, student loans, things of that nature. I am a full-time worker, and I feel like my job should be able to provide for basic needs," said Wilson.

Business owners argue that employees do have opportunities to be promoted.

The minimum wage legislation, if passed, would increase the minimum wage to $10.60 an hour in Illinois. That would happen over a three-year period.

McDonald's released a statement in response:

McDonald's released a statement in response:

"We value and respect all the employees who work at McDonald's restaurants. The majority of McDonald's restaurants in Chicago and across the country are owned and operated by independent business men and women. Both our company and franchised-owned restaurants work hard every day to treat McDonald's employees with dignity and respect. Employees are paid competitive wages and have access to a range of benefits to meet their individual needs. In addition, employees who want to go from crew to management can take advantage of a variety of training and professional development opportunities."

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