Chicago fast food workers call for higher wages, say recent hike isn’t enough

By Evan Garcia

Fast food workers assembled Thursday to demand a higher minimum wage days after the Chicago City Council approved a gradual, five-year increase.

Protesters outside a downtown McDonald’s called for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The plan Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through the city council raises the current rate from $8.25 an hour to $10 on July 1. The minimum wage then increases by 50 cents during the next two years, then $1 in each of the following two, bringing it to $13 an hour in 2019.

Mayoral candidates Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia have both called for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Fioretti attended the early-morning protest.

Thursday marked the two-year anniversary of the “Fight for 15” movement by fast food workers. Chicago was one of 190 U.S. cities where fast food workers walked off the job to demand higher wages.

Many of the protesters worked at McDonald’s. Amid pressure to raise its wages, McDonald’s Corp.  has said the demonstrations do not represent the views of all of its employees and that wage decisions are at the discretion of franchise owners.

Emanuel has beaten Illinois to the punch in raising the minimum wage. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) adjourned the state house’s fall veto session on Friday before a vote could be called on legislation raising the Illinois minimum wage to $10 an hour. The house will work with Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner on the issue when he takes office next month.

Rauner has warned that a higher minimum wage in Chicago without “pro-job creation” and “pro-growth” reforms will make the city less competitive in the job market.