Hundreds of low-wage Chicago workers and their allies hit the city's downtown streets Tuesday evening to call for a $15 an hour minimum wage, union recognition and other items on their new "voter agenda."
The protest, which started at the Thompson Center and ended with a march to a nearby McDonald's at Clark and Lake streets, was one among many Fight for $15 actions happening Tuesday in 500 U.S. cities.
Fast food and other low-wage workers chanted, "What do we want? $15! When do we want it? Now!"
Women and workers of color are disproportionately represented in lower-paid restaurant jobs, and they face the most barriers to obtaining "living wage" positions in the industry, according to a new report from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC).
The restaurant worker advocacy group's research sheds light on and calls for an end to "Jim-Crow-like segregation in the restaurant industry."
Ahead of Women's Equality Day on Wednesday, a new study shows Illinois is the third most equal state for women. But don't get too cheery over the findings, independent experts say.
WalletHub, the personal finance website, ranked all 50 U.S. states on gender equality in three areas: education, political empowerment and workplace environment. Illinois had the third best overall ranking, behind New York at No.2 and Hawaii at No. 1. Utah earned the worst ranking.
A leader with the Chicago-based advocacy group Women Employed was pleased to see Illinois come in third for women's equality. However, the ranking "doesn't mean things are primarily good for women in Illinois," stressed Women Employed's Associate Director Jenny Wittner.
"It just means that by certain measures (conditions are) better than other states," she said.
Chicago Northwest Side residents attended a town hall meeting Wednesday night to speak out against budget cuts and the "poverty wages" impacting their communities.
Those at the town hall, hosted by Communities United, formerly the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, called for progressive revenue options to tackle the city and state's fiscal issues and highlighted their support for a $15 hourly minimum wage in Chicago.
"Because of budget cuts, essential programs are being cut for our young people and community, and students are being denied educational programs," said Communities United leader Manolita Huber. "And because of poverty wages, low-wage workers can't even afford to pay the rent, let alone put food on the table."
The report authors say the Fed, the central bank of the United States, can help reverse wage stagnation and narrow gender and racial wage gaps through its monetary policy.
Most Americans have faced wage stagnation over the last 35 years, despite there being a 64.9 percent growth in productivity during this time, according to the report. Wage growth also remained sluggish last month, with average hourly earnings increasing only 2 percent in June from one year ago.
A move by the Fed to slow the economy with an interest rate hike before "genuine full employment" is achieved will "hamper the ability of workers' wages to rise," the authors wrote.
U.S. teens still face a pretty bleak employment landscape, but their job prospects are predicted to be a bit brighter this summer, according to a new study by the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University.
The study estimates that the nationwide 2015 summer employment rate for teens ages 16 to 19 will be 29.8 percent. That would represent the highest teen summer employment rate since 2008, when the figure was 32.4 percent.
The predicted 2015 teen employment rate of 29.8 percent is up from 27 percent in the summer of 2014 and 26.7 percent in 2013.