WBEZ | Il. Gov. Pat Quinn http://www.wbez.org/tags/il-gov-pat-quinn Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Downtown walkout for higher minimum wage shakes up Chicago businesses http://www.wbez.org/news/downtown-walkout-higher-minimum-wage-shakes-chicago-businesses-106827 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/minwage1.jpg" title="Protesters stopped outside a Nike store on Michigan Avenue. They’re calling for downtown workers to make a 5 minimum. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F89347637&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>A group of fast food and retail workers in downtown Chicago staged a protest and walkout Wednesday to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour for all downtown workers. Beginning very early in the morning, the roving protest grew in size as it made noise in front of stores including Macy&rsquo;s, Nordstrom Rack, Dunkin&rsquo; Donuts and McDonald&rsquo;s.</p><p dir="ltr">Felix Mendez said he changed out of his uniform and into a red shirt and walked out of his job at Subway early Wednesday morning.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Every two weeks my check is less than $500,&rdquo; he said. In two years at Subway he said he&rsquo;s never gotten a raise, and he and his family recently had to move because they couldn&rsquo;t pay rent. He lives with his girlfriend, who&rsquo;s a teacher, and his two kids. &ldquo;We make it, but it would be nice not to have to struggle, just to live comfortable live everybody else.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/minwage2.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Amani Johnson says he’s worked at Subway for six years and walked out because he still barely makes enough to get by. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" />Managers at Mendez&rsquo;s Subway didn&rsquo;t want to comment. But another Subway manager whose employees walked out said he&rsquo;d support a higher state minimum wage.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Why not?&rdquo; said Subway manager Firoj Ali. But he said Subway won&rsquo;t be the one to set that new minimum. &ldquo;The franchise is not going to decide minimum wage.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I have to go paycheck by paycheck struggling,&rdquo; said Amani Johnson, who works at the same Subway. The 26-year-old has two young children, and he&rsquo;s been at Subway for six years. &ldquo;Why be greedy and keep the money to yourself when you could be helping many others out here that are struggling?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year in his State of the State address, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn voiced his support for raising the state minimum above $8.25. But lawmakers have not yet addressed legislation this session. The last change in the state minimum wage was in 2010.</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://www.nelp.org/page/-/Job_Creation/LowWageRecovery2012.pdf?nocdn=1">study by the National Employment Law Project</a> shows that since the economic crash in 2008, the growth of low-wage jobs has far outpaced mid- and high-wage jobs.</p><p dir="ltr">The group behind Wednesday&rsquo;s protest, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC), wants downtown businesses to raise pay on their own rather than waiting for a change in laws. The WOCC is using a protest strategy that has also been gaining some traction <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-04-24/afternoon-shift-labor-pains-106821">with fast food workers in New York City</a>: getting workers to go out on &ldquo;strike&rdquo; without officially forming a union. But Wednesday&rsquo;s demonstration was more a walkout than a strike; workers said they will be back on the job Thursday.</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 16:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/downtown-walkout-higher-minimum-wage-shakes-chicago-businesses-106827