By now many of you have probably seen news coverage of the protests going on in Chicago and across the country. If you happened to be at O'Hare Airport, the McDonald's on Chicago and Damen, or Northwestern Memorial Hospital today, you got a real-time glimpse of the action. Maybe you were even among the throngs wearing "Fighting for $15" scarves or carrying signs reading, "We Won't Back Down."
The Fighting for $15 campaign, while commemorating the 4th anniversary of the strike among McDonald's employees in New York, was also a continued push to raise the minimum wage. In Chicago, it's already gone up to $10.50 an hour.
At O'Hare this morning, several non-union employees- baggage handlers, janitors, airplane cabin cleaners, and wheelchair attendants- marched for better pay and labor practices.
Twenty airports nationwide are serving as protest platforms today, but O'Hare is the only one to be the site of an "unfair labor practices" strike. Their pledge to walk off the job began Monday night, in response to alleged retaliation by their employers for organizing. While not employed directly by O'Hare, they're employed by companies who have contracts with the airlines.
According to the fast food workers, their goal is to be more disruptive than in past protests. They want to send a message, loud and clear, to the Trump administration, that they "won't back down" from advocating a significant minimum wage hike.
The McDonald's protesters plan to block the intersection to draw the attention of police. The demonstrators actually want to double the number of people arrested for "civil disobedience." Their goal is to see 100 people taken into custody, Apparently, the arrest tally of more than four dozen people at their last protest wasn't good enough for them.
Wage-related protests are underway in 340 cities across the nation.
I can't help but wonder if these protests were planned to coincide with "Giving Tuesday," as workers are demanding more generosity from their employers.
Regarding the airport workers, I'd like to know what this retaliation consists of. I'm not saying it didn't happen, and if it did happen, it needs to be addressed and remedied appropriately. This seems more like an excuse to ask for a wage increase, though.
I remember similar protests at O'Hare in the past. Some of these non-union workers weren't even getting minimum wage. Wheelchair attendants were earning a paltry $6.50 an hour and were expected to make up the difference in tips.
In that case, I sided with them in their struggle. I don't like the idea of letting employers off the hook by creating regulations whereby they can pay workers less than the legally-mandated minimum wage.
Putting the responsibility on customers to help make up the difference is unfair, especially since some people don't even bother to tip. In other cases, they may not have the means to do so or have no knowledge that the people serving them are earning so little and that a tip is expected.
Especially in the case of the wheelchair attendants, I thought that it was unrealistic to expect that elderly and disabled passengers would consistently be able to offer big tips. Many of them are likely on fixed incomes and can't afford to. Others, trying to get to the right gate or meet a connecting flight, might be in too much of a hurry to shell out some extra cash.
Do these people honestly think they're going to send a message to the Trump administration? There have been so many demonstrations lately, especially in Chicago, that it's doubtful whether people even take them seriously anymore.
When there's a protest now, they just call in extra police and hope it ends quickly and peacefully.
This looks like a ploy for attention. Maybe they want media coverage. Unfortunately, the protests probably won't do much to improve wages or job prospects.
Trump has enough on his hands without worrying about the minimum wage or bands of restless protesters. Unless a decision is reached soon, his administration may have to deal with the recent injunction stalling the overtime pay increases that would have been required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. I don't think Trump will get around to raising the minimum wage.
You're going to have a tough time convincing a Republican President to put that much pressure on businesses during lean economic times.
Even if wages do go up, it won't be enough. The price of goods and services will have to increase to cover the added labor costs, and workers will find soon enough that their buying power increased very little, if at all.
I'm all about paying people more if it is economically feasible to do so, especially when the work is arduous, thankless, behind-the-scenes labor that most of us wouldn't want to do. However, in our sluggish economy, it's not practical and would be extremely detrimental to small businesses.
If wage increases happen, then we should expect to see jobs cut. Already, some fast-food restaurants have automated ordering systems. That trend will continue if it's going to bankrupt business owners to pay their employees.
Workers need to consider all the hiring costs. Technically, it costs a lot more than $10.25 an hour (or $8.25 for the rest of Illinois) to hire someone. You have to pay for workers' compensation and unemployment. If they get benefits, you contribute to that. There are OSHA guidelines and scores of other regulations you have to comply with. It all adds up quickly.
I also have to add here that nothing, and I mean nothing, substantiates your cause like getting yourself arrested. If you want people to take you seriously, to listen to your side, to take up your cause, the best plan is to get as many of your cohorts together and cause as much mayhem as possible. Block traffic. Disrupt business. Make sure that the police have to arrive on the scene and put handcuff on you and march you down to the county jail.
Conditions there will make your job and living situation look like paradise. Unfortunately, by then, you've probably lost that job. And where will you get the money to bail yourself out? Willie Wilson can't help them all.
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