Hundreds of fast-food and retail workers walked off their jobs Wednesday morning to protest in Chicago's Loop and call for higher wages.
Workers from McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Macy’s, Sears and Victoria’s Secret gathered at Union Station and several other locations to "fight for 15," as their signs read, demanding a higher wage to survive.
The Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago campaign says many of the 275,000 men and women working in Chicago’s fast food and retail outlets can’t afford things like food, clothing and rent on the minimum $8.25 an hour that most of them make. Some say they rely on public assistance for health care for their children while others say bills are piling up.
"I just feel like during my time being there, I've been exploited, I've been overlooked," McDonald's worker Robert Wilson said, "and haven't gotten what I deserved."
Wilson said he can't afford his student loan bills that cost more than his rent most months and a raise would make a big difference.
"I could get my bills taken care of, and they won't have to go to a collection agency which is going to mess up my credit score which is only going to make things difficult along the road," he said.
Wilson was among the first wave of protesters who showed up at Union Station at 6 a.m.
The group says their companies make more than $4 billion a year on Chicago's Magnificent Mile and in the Loop yet workers' wages remain too low to live in the city.
"They're making $8.25 an hour, working full-time and qualifying for food stamps and rental assistance," Lorraine Chavez of the Workers Organizing Committee said. "They're below their poverty level with that salary and the corporations are multi-billion and trillion dollar industries, so there's a huge disparity there and the workers work extremely hard in very dangerous and demanding conditions."