Hundreds March & Rally to Raise the Minimum Wage on National Day of Action

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Contact:
Catherine Murrell, 312-523-3882, catherine@standupchicago.org

In a Daylong Series of Protests, Hundreds Rally for an Increase to the Minimum Wage

CHICAGO—Starting early Tuesday morning with a trolley-load of “Romney Economy” tourists and ending during evening rush hour with a convergence of 1,000+ protestors outside the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, working Chicagoans joined together in a day of protests demanding a raise for the 99%.

The day kicked off at 8:30 a.m. with a crowd of minimum wage earners and their supporters lining up in the Loop for the “Romney Economy Trolley Tour,” which made multiple stops along its narrated route, pointing out some of the city’s and nation’s worst minimum-wage paying offenders. (See photos here.)

Outside a Dunkin’ Donuts store, a tour guide made the connection between the unlivable wage the chain pays the vast majority of its employees, and its ownership by Bain Capital, the equity firm that Mitt Romney helped to start and still profits handsomely from.

The day’s main message, as voiced by Dunkin’ Donuts employee Barbur Balos during the trolley tour, was that “the minimum wage is not enough to live on.” The current Illinois minimum wage – last raised two years ago – is $8.25 an hour, over $2 less an hour than the 1968 rate adjusted for inflation.

While ranging in size and format, each of the day’s five protests featured the heartbreaking stories of minimum-wage workers unable to provide themselves and their families with the basic necessities of life. The day’s activities were part of a National Minimum Wage Day of Action, marked by low-wage workers and community supporters in dozens of cities.

Two of the Chicago protests, a rally of approximately 100 Wal-Mart workers outside the Presidential Towers Wal-Mart in the early afternoon, and the 1,000-person mass Rally to Raise the Minimum Wage at 4:30, shared a limbo theme—posing the question of just how low minimum-wage employers can and will go in search of over-the-top profits.

The Wal-Mart gathering was immediately followed by a rally in support of underpaid home healthcare workers at the Thompson Center, and another at City Hall featuring janitors laid off from livable-wage jobs now doing the same work for minimum wage.

At 4:30 p.m., the day’s main event began with crowds gathering at three separate staging sites—Thompson Center Plaza, outside the Capital Grille restaurant in the Magnificent Mile, and in front of Chicago Public Schools headquarters—for brief rallies before starting off in three feeder marches converging at the intersection of Michigan and Randolph around 5:30. (See photos here.)

Carrying banners and signs reading “Raise the Minimum Wage,” and “We Can’t Survive on $8.25,” the crowd paused momentarily at the convergence point while a troupe of circus performers took the lead.

The performers led the combined march for the rest of the way to the destination point – the Aon Center – by limboing in motion. Performers dressed in posh evening wear and business suits held the ends of the limbo pole and dared others – dressed as dishwashers, janitors and other minimum wage workers – to dance under the pole by holding paltry amounts of cash out as bait.

At the Aon Center, home to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the marchers formed a mass rally, and listened to a line up of speakers including Rev. C.J. Hawking, Executive Director of Arise Chicago; single minimum-wage earning mother Rocio Caravantes; CPS teacher Paula Jacko who works closely with students with minimum-wage earning parents; and Sue Gries with Lakeview Action Coalition.

The speakers addressed how Illinois’ unlivable minimum wage inflicts suffering upon families. Many of the Chamber’s richest corporate members profit by paying workers minimum wage—and also actively oppose proposed legislation at the state and Federal level to raise the minimum wage to approximately $10 an hour.

Leaflets handed out at the march and rally called upon participants and passersby to call their legislators and Congressmen to demand passage of Illinois SB1565 and the Federal Harkin-Miller legislation to increase both the Illinois and Federal minimum wage.

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