December 2013

Thanks to Child Care Providers, Copay Relief for Working Parents is Around the Corner!


We won for providers and parents

The 2013 child care contract campaign made historic gains for the home child care industry. Child care providers decided one of our top priorities for our last contract was winning change for working parents in addition to improvements for providers.

Together, with working parents, we:

  • Won 2 new rate increases in 2014,
  • Protected our healthcare and Quality Rating System (QRS) add-ons,
  • Won preschool/Head Start and special needs add-ons,
  • Won money for a union training fund, and
  • Protected our union rights.

We also won a commitment from the State of $13.5 million over 18 months to lower co-pays for working parents in the Child Care Assistance Program.

On January 1, 2014, copay relief for Illinois working parents will go into effect. This victory will make a huge difference for working parents who have had to decide whether to put food on the table, gas in the car, or cover child care expenses.

Liliana Lopez headshot“Winning copay relief for working parents is a huge victory for us all. I have peace of mind knowing that fewer working parents will be forced to choose between food on the table or covering their child care copay. We must keep fighting to win more help for working parents and a better investment in Illinois child care for providers and families.”

-Liliana Lopez, Child Care Provider, Cicero, IL

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YMCA workers rally for affordable health care and a fair contract

Teacher Aurora Cavazos presented our Christmas wishes to YMCA management.

Teacher Aurora Cavazos presented our Christmas wishes to YMCA management.

On December 19th, YMCA early learning teachers, staff, parents, kids, and allies gathered at the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s headquarters at 800 N. Dearborn to demand decent health care, respect on the job, and good-faith bargaining.

YMCA members voted to form a union more than a year ago, but YMCA management has dug in their heels, refusing to consider the union health plan that would cost the YMCA and its workers less money.

Aurora Cavazos has taught at the North Lawndale YMCA for four years, and has been in the child care industry for 17 years. Even though she has a master’s degree, she has problems making ends meet on what the YMCA pays her.

“There is no way that I can afford the YMCA health care plan on a YMCA salary,” said Aurora. “$69 every two weeks just doesn’t make sense for a person who makes only $23,000 per year. So, when I get sick, my only option is to sit at County Hospital all day long, waiting to be seen by a doctor. I’m lucky enough to work full-time, but more than 82% of the YMCA’s workforce only works part-time. I don’t get enough paid time off, but part time workers don’t get any at all.”

See video from the event below, including Aurora’s testimony and some spirited Christmas caroling, and visit to add your voice to the fight! Visit Catalyst for some of the great press coverage our action received.

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SEIU Members Stand with Gov. Quinn, Fighting to Raise the Minimum Wage in Illinois!

SEIU members who collected minimum wage petitions. From left: nursing home worker Susana Fragoso; and DORS PA workers Retona Wilson; Yvette Anderson; Theresa Williams, and James Scott.

SEIU members who collected minimum wage petitions. From left: nursing home worker Susana Fragoso; and DORS PA workers Retona Wilson; Yvette Anderson; Theresa Williams, and James Scott.

(December 18, 2013) — SEIU Healthcare Illinois members who collected thousands of minimum wage petitions, received a heartfelt thanks from Governor Pat Quinn who passionately called for giving low-wage workers better wages to stem the income inequality crisis.

Governor Quinn spoke at a press event held at Saint Pius Church on Ashland Ave. in Chicago to make the case that Illinois must raise the minimum wage.  Standing alongside him in the photo, (from left) was nursing home worker Susana Fragoso; and Department of Rehabilitative Service (DORS) personal assistants Retona Wilson; Yvette Anderson; Theresa Williams, and James Scott.

Gov. Quinn’s speech came only two days after working families and community groups delivered petitions to the Chicago Board of Elections today to place a non-binding advisory referendum on the March ballot to establish a city minimum wage.

See the press release below from our coalition partners below.

‘Raise Illinois’ Coalition Issues Statement After Governor Quinn’s Address On Raising the Minimum Wage



(December 18, 2013, Chicago) – Governor Pat Quinn spoke today at Saint Pius Church in Chicago and gave a forceful and passionate plea to lift the minimum wage in Illinois on behalf of low-income workers and struggling families.  Governor Quinn spoke about the need to tackle the growing poverty and income inequality crisis by paying workers better wages.

In response, Raise Illinois, a statewide coalition working to increase the state’s minimum wage, issued the following statement:

The Raise Illinois coalition applauds Governor Quinn’s remarks today in support of raising the minimum wage.  Low-wage workers simply cannot survive on $8.25 an hour.

Governor Quinn’s speech today called for urgent action in Springfield to give workers the improved wages they need to afford basic necessities.

Low-wage workers are not alone in this fight. They are joining together with working and middle class families, community leaders, and interfaith partners to say that working people simply cannot survive on poverty wages anymore. This movement is clearly expanding and the demands for change in Illinois will only continue to grow.

Governor Quinn correctly noted that raising the minimum wage would strengthen our state economy, fight job loss, and help small businesses by putting more money in the pockets of consumers. It is estimated that raising the minimum wage to $10.65 per hour would inject a net of $2.5 billion into our economy.

Today it was made clear that minimum wage workers need their leaders to take swift action to solve Illinois’ inequality crisis.

Over 71% of Illinois voters support raising the minimum wage. It’s time for the state legislature to listen to what the people want and pass a bill to raise the minimum wage.

Raise Illinois is led by a coalition of community, business, faith, and labor organizations along with low-wage workers and families that are fighting to raise the minimum wage in Illinois.  Raise Illinois is a major legislative and grassroots campaign to increase Illinois’ minimum wage from the current $8.25 to $10.65 per hour.



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HCII Press Advisory: YMCA early learning staff, kids, and allies hold candlelight vigil to demand fair bargaining and affordable health care from YMCA of Metro Chicago

For Immediate Release                                                                              

YMCA  early learning staff, kids, and allies hold candlelight vigil to demand fair bargaining and affordable health care from YMCA of Metro Chicago
Members voted to form a union more than a year ago and are still working without a contract

Chicago, IL: Dozens of parents, teachers, staff, kids, and members of the YMCA community will gather at YMCA of Metro Chicago headquarters tomorrow afternoon in a holiday-themed candlelight vigil to demand good-faith bargaining and a health plan that teachers and staff can afford.

The YMCA’s current plan for individuals costs workers $102.80 per month. On an average salary of just over $23,000 per year, that’s more than most teachers and staff can afford: only a quarter of the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s early care and education employees are currently enrolled.

“The YMCA’s health plan is too expensive for people on YMCA salaries,” said Aurora Cavazos, a teacher at the North Lawndale location, who will tell her story at the vigil. “I have to spend hours waiting in line in the emergency room at Stroger when I’m sick. The part-timers don’t even get paid time off—I don’t know how they manage.”

Demonstrators will present YMCA officials with a “naughty” list of YMCA board members and a “nice” list of over 100 Chicagoans who signed a petition demanding fair treatment for workers, sing Christmas carols with adapted lyrics, and pass out information to passersby.

Where: YMCA of Metro Chicago Headquarters, 800 N. Dearborn St.

When: TOMORROW, Thursday, December 19, 4:30 p.m.

Who: More than 30 teachers, staff, parents, kids, and allies of YMCA early learning programs

What: A candlelight vigil to demand affordable health care and good-faith bargaining from management

Visuals: Large foamboard “naughty” and “nice” lists, Christmas carols with adapted lyrics



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Chicago Residents to Vote On $15 Minimum Wage Proposal On March Primary Ballot

Denise Brown, home care worker, talks about how she manages to get by on poverty wages.

Denise Brown, home care worker, talks about how she manages to get by on poverty wages.

Raise Chicago Coalition Press Release

Community Groups and Working Families Place “Advisory Referendum” On Ballot To Establish a Living Wage Requirement On Companies that Make Over $50 Million Per Year

(Chicago, December 16, 2013) – Community groups, working families and labor allies delivered petitions to the Chicago Board of Elections today to place a non-binding advisory referendum on the March ballot to establish a city minimum wage.

The question before voters on Tuesday, March 18th will be whether major corporations and businesses that make over $50 million in profits in the last tax year, such as Walmart or McDonald’s, should pay a living wage of $15 per hour to their workers.  Small businesses that make less than $50 million per year would not be impacted.

Community advocates hope that the referendum will spark a serious conversation about how the city of Chicago, and all levels of government, must tackle the growing inequality and poverty crisis by lifting the wages of low-income workers.  The current minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 an hour, so low that workers, and certainly those who support families, simply cannot survive.  Oftentimes they must work two or even three jobs just to make ends meet and make other major personal sacrifices for themselves and their children.

The grassroots movement to gather signatures to place the advisory referendum on the March ballot was spearheaded by the Raise Chicago Coalition.  Along with community volunteers, low-wage workers, and working families, the coalition includes Action Now, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, the Grassroots Collaborative, ONE Northside, and SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana.

“I support raising the minimum wage in Chicago for low-wage workers because we are not invisible.  We will not stand by and let our elected officials maintain the status quo,” said Carlos Navarro, a retired Marine veteran and a ONE Northside leader living in Chicago’s 46th Ward. “I’m tired of seeing families in my community struggle to get by on poverty wages and I am confident this referendum will show the Chicago City Council that there is a need to raise the minimum wage to a fair and living wage.”

As proof of the fair wage movement’s success, and its potential, residents near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) voted to raise the minimum wage for hospitality and transportation workers from $9.19 an hour to $15 an hour.  In addition, Washington D.C. raised the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour. Next door in Maryland, Prince George County and Montgomery County both dramatically increased the minimum hourly wage to $11.50 by 2017 from the current $7.25.

In 2012 voters in San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, New Mexico all approved wage hikes. Finally, in New Jersey’s state elections in 2013, that also saw Gov. Chris Christie reelected, voters overwhelmingly supported raising the state minimum wage to $8.25 and amended the state Constitution to tie future wage increases to inflation.

Chicago’s referendum for a $15 an hour minimum wage follows the unprecedented national day of strikes on December 5th  in over 100 cities where low-wage workers protested hugely profitable corporations to demand a $15 an hour living wage.

“There is a direct link between poverty and increases in violence and crime, as well as decreases in educational achievement. When workers make a living wage, it helps build up the whole community,” said Gloria Warner, President of Action Now and a resident of Englewood.  “I am absolutely confident that working families and communities across Chicago will lift our voices and vote for this proposed referendum in huge numbers.”

As a point of reference, the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, measures the income a family needs in order to attain a secure yet modest living standard by estimating community-specific costs of housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes.  In the Chicago area, a single parent with one child would have to make $53,168 a year.  Currently, a full-time minimum wage worker only makes $17,000 a year.

And a 2012 report released by Women Employed and Action Now Institute revealed that Chicago’s low-wage workforce has grown by 30% since 2001. The majority (57.4%) of Chicago’s low-wage workers are over the age of 30, and one in three (34.7%) have attended at least some college.  Over half, (56.7%) live in households receiving all of their income from low-wage jobs.

“You cannot survive on $8.25 an hour,” said Silvia Torres member of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and resident of the 15th ward. “Allowing highly profitable companies to pay poverty wages is an issue for the whole community. Poverty leads to violence.  Therefore, we can’t afford to not raise the minimum wage to $15.”


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A Journey into South Africa’s History

This entry is cross-posted from and authored by Leah Maddox

To truly honor the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, one must first begin to understand his history and the history of his country.WvBexplanation.jpg

Stephanie and Shanisha deepened that journey, visiting the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, to study the rise and fall of a state-sanctioned system based of racial discrimination.

“When I bought my ticket it read ‘Black Adult,'” puzzled Shanisha. “As I entered the building, the entrance said ‘Colored’ on side and ‘Whites’ on the other. My mouth dropped. I have just entered the race classification system.


“I looked over and there was Stephanie on the other side of me. So others in our group had received a ‘White’ ticket. I could hear them on the other side, and their emotional reactions, but I couldn’t see or talk to them.”

Stephanie and Shanesha also visited Mandela’s childhood home.

“The neighbor gave us such a warm welcoming, and the children were dancing and playing,” smiled Stephanie.

But looking around at the neighborhood made me think about things back in Chicago. You see so many similarities. There aren’t enough good jobs so people are hand-making items to sell on the streets. And kids are out making up games to play in the street, because there are no parks close by their homes in which to play.

“You just realize how small this world really is, when you travel and see so many parallels. Going to see the home where Nelson Mandela started was so special for that reason.”

MandelaHome1.png MandelaHome2.png

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Paying Our Respects

This entry is cross-posted from and authored by Leah Maddox

Respects.jpg.pngAfter a 20 hour flight from Washington D.C. to South Africa, SEIU Millennial members Stephanie Knighten and Shanisha Robinson had little time to relax. Instead they made plans immediately to immerse themselves among the community of supporters and pay their respects to Nelson Mandela.

“My grandmother – who is 100 years old – told me that I needed to kiss the ground of my home country as soon as I arrived,” said Stephanie. “It’s important that I make the most of each moment I’m here.”

Line to see Nelson Mandela

Stephanie and Shanisha went to the government buildings of Pretoria, the same spot where Mandela was sworn in as President in 1994. It is here that Mandela’s body lies until Sunday when he is buried Qunu.

“The amount of people who were there – to see him – was unbelievable,” Shanesha said. “So many people that have so much respect and so much love for one man. It was powerful.”

“I am just grateful,” added Stephanie, “to not only be here, but to see the amount of love and honor that is possible.”

They also met U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard and his wife Raina for lunch, and heard stories about the Ambassador’s younger days supporting the anti-apartheid movement.

Ambassador Gaspard“I talked with Raina about the young leaders in our union, and how we’re building a movement to make change in our country,” remarked Stephanie. “She responded that their 13 year old daughter has a passion for social justice, and was excited when she heard her dad was working for the President and then even happier when she heard they were all moving to South Africa.”

“Young people are our future!” piped up Shanisha.



If you missed our first post about HCII member Stephanie Knighten’s journey to South Africa, click here to check it out. 

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A Journey to Mandela’s Home: HCII Member Stephanie Knighten in South Africa

This entry is cross-posted from and authored by Leah Maddox


Stephanie Knighten (pictured top left) and Shanisha Robinson embarked today on a journey to South Africa – to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela and infuse their work with the anti-apartheid movement Mandela led.

Hailing from Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively, Stephanie and Shanisha are Millennial member leaders at Healthcare Illinois/Indiana and ULTCW.

In preparation of their trip today, Stephanie and Shanisha attended a remembrance ceremony for Mandela at the Washington National Cathedral. They heard from activists who had met Mandela, had been arrested while challenging injustice alongside him, and who had carried freedom fighter songs back to America from South Africa.

“It brings me back to my Millennial committee and the energy we are creating at ULTCW,” Shanisha reflected. “We have such a strong voice, than can at times go untapped. But not anymore. We’re ready to step up for real change in this country. Uplifting our voice is the only way to true democracy.
Stephanie similarly stated, “One speaker reminded us how young Mandela and other revolutionaries were when they became involved with the anti-apartheid movement.
They were just babies. This is exactly why I stepped up as a Millennial – why I knock doors and organize at my union hall.”Stephanie added, “We left the Cathedral singing a quote by Mandela put to music, ‘No easy walk to freedom’. I felt like it was speaking straight to me. If you don’t stand up for what you believe in, no one else will.
“It’s going to be a journey,” Shanesha nodded. “I just feel lucky to be able to partake in such a historic moment in civil rights.”
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Touchette Hospital Employees Hold One-Day Strike, Take Arrest in Quest for Fair Contract

Touchette Strike 120513 371_front banner

Caregivers, service, and maintenance employees at Touchette Hospital in Centreville, IL, have been negotiating with management for months over their first contract. Southern Illinois Heathcare Foundation, who owns Touchette Hospital, still refuses to offer any fixed wage increases to its union-represented staff, even though they recently doled out 2.5% increases for the Southern Illinois Healthcare employees.

Workers have kept the pressure on every step of the way throughout the campaign, garnering community support, holding worksite actions, and engaging local media.

In the face of dead-end negotiations and an employer committing unfair labor practices, workers planned a one-day strike on December 5th to illustrate their unity and commitment to winning a contract with fair economic proposals.

Despite the freezing temperatures, striking Touchette employees, allies, and fast food workers who were also on strike marched to Touchette Hospital, demanding a meeting Touchette Strike 120513 277with CEO Larry McCulley. The request for a meeting was ignored and 8 brave workers and supporters locked arms and refused to move in front of a hospital entrance. The 8 held their ground and took arrest when police arrived on the scene.

Management was so rattled by the action they locked all the hospital doors and announced that no one would be allowed to leave the building. Several supporters found alternative ways to exit the building, evading security officers posted by main entrance ways.

“We care very much for the people we serve at Touchette Hospital and the future of our hospital,” said Micha Whitehead, Nurse Assistant. “That’s why we held a one-day strike – to show management that we’re willing to do whatever it takes to win a fair contract that invests in the frontline workforce and ensures we can continue to provide the highest quality care to patients.”

Check out press coverage from the one-day strike here.

The Nurse Aides, Admissions Representatives, Cooks, Food Servers, Housekeepers, Phlebotomists, and many others who work at Touchette Hospital are among the lowest paid employees in the health care industry, and Touchette average wages rank 23 out of 25 hospitals in the region in pay.(1) Low wages contribute to an increasingly high rate of turnover, where experienced caregivers are forced to look elsewhere for employment. This leads to low patient survey scores that negatively impact Medicare and Medicaid payments to the Hospital.(2) Low wages also create financial instability for workers and their families, with too many full-time employees forced to rely on payday loans, food stamps, and even public assistance in order to provide healthcare for their children.

Touchette received 79% of net patient service revenue, or just over $46 million, from Medicare and Medicaid in FY 2012. Their parent company, Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation, has received more than $37 million in federal grants and increased net assets by $7.2 million since FY 2011.(3)  In addition to expected increased revenue from the expansion of the Behavioral health Unit at Touchette, the Hospital will likely benefit from the Affordable Care Act, with increased revenues through a patient population that now has better access to insurance.

Workers are committed as ever to winning what they deserve so stay tuned for ways to support their efforts!

Touchette Strike 120513 259


1. FY 2013 Final Rule Wage Index PUFS, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services FY 2013 Wage Index

2. “Survey of Patients Hospital Experiences HCAHPS” (October 1, 2011 – September 30, 2012), “Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Patient Experience of Care Domain Scores” (Baseline Period July 1, 2009 – March 31, 2010; Performance Period July 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012), and “Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Total Performance Score” (Baseline Period July 1, 2009 – March 31, 2010; Performance Period July 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012), “Hospital Compare”, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, July 30, 2013

3. “Combined Statements of Operations” and “Note C – Net Patient Service Revenue”, Touchette Regional Hospital FY 2012 Audited Financial Statements, p. 6, 14; and “Statements of Activities and Changes in Unrestricted Net Assets”, Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation Financial Statements – Years Ended December 31, 2012 and 2011, p. 6


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SEIU Members Support Fast-Food Worker Strikes; Rallies Held In More Than 100 Cities Across Country

A Year After Initial Walkout, Movement for Higher Pay Continues to Grow Rapidly as Fast-Food Workers Join 100-City Strike Wave

(Dec. 5th, 2013) One year after the first strike hit the $200 billion fast-food industry, fast-food workers walked off their jobs Thursday.   Workers went on strike in every region of the country and were joined by SEIU members and working families rallying in 100 cities as the fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation continues to grow.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana Missouri and Kansas members rallied in support of striking fast-food workers across the Midwest including Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, and Peoria to name but a few.


SEIU members stood with McDonald's strikers in Indianapolis.

SEIU members stood with McDonald’s strikers in Indianapolis.

Indiana members joined workers at two McDonald’s locations and a Burger King. There are nearly 33,000 fast-food workers in the Indianapolis area, making a median wage of $8.67 an hour. An adult with one child needs to make $17.81 an hour working full time in the Indianapolis area just to afford the basics, according to a model developed by a professor at MIT.

“I’m very proud to be a part of this. We’re finally getting our voices heard,” said Shawntel Chinn, a striking McDonald’s worker. “We make billions in profits for McDonald’s and other big corporations and they don’t care about our needs. I work hard but I have to choose between paying rent and buying winter boots for my daughter.”

Kansas City


Kansas City press conference outside of McDonald’s on December 5, 2013

In Missouri, fast food workers in St. Louis and Kansas City also joined the strike lines that swept the nation. In KC, the day kicked off at 6:30 a.m. with a prayer vigil before workers and supporters departed in freezing temperatures for strike lines at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Subway.

Faith leaders from across the metro area joined workers in their call for $15/hour and a union, calling out the billion-dollar fast food industry for what they described as unfair and unethical economic practices.

“An economic system that values profit more than the welfare of people is unjust and unethical,” said the Rev. Susan McCann, a minister at Grace Episcopal Church at press conference outside a Kansas City McDonald’s. “No one who works full time should be living in poverty.”

In both St. Louis and Kansas City, SEIU members were out in full force standing in support of fast food workers’ quest for living wages and a voice on the job.

Coverage of the strikes were all over the media, checkout a few stories from the Kansas City Star here, KCTV 5 here, and WDAF 4 here.

Peoria, Illinois

Workers held protests at the Burger King and McDonald’s on University Street in the morning.  Then before noon, workers rallied outside two McDonald locations on Main Street and Knoxville Avenue, then protested a Wendy’s on Big Hollow Road. The actions generated enormous press, including an interviews with workers on Peoria public radio, and local NBC and CBS stations.

Peoria CBS Ch 31

Peoria NBC Ch 25

“We can’t spend our time hoping that someone else will change this problem of poverty wages – we all have to step up and fight for better wages and the right to form a union,” said Darian Neal, who works a minimum wage job for Wendy’s on Big Hollow Road in Peoria for 9 to 12 hours per week. He barely has enough money to buy food and lives with his mom to make ends meet. “I don’t even eat at McDonald’s just because I can’t afford it. These rich CEOs and corporations know how hard it is for working families trying to get by. They prefer to spend millions of dollars on advertising than give their workers living wages.”

In Peoria, State Senator Koehler Speaks to Striking Fast-Food Workers

Background on Fight for $15 Strikes

Fast food is a $200 billion a year industry, yet many service workers across the country earn minimum wage or just above it and are forced to rely on public assistance programs to provide for their families and get healthcare for their children. Nationally, the median wage for cooks, cashiers and crew at fast-food restaurants is just $8.94 an hour.

A recent report by the University of California-Berkley found that more than half of front line fast food workers, including more than half of those who work more than forty hours per week, earn so little they are forced to rely on public assistance programs, costing taxpayers $7 billion per year. Following that report, news broke that McDonald’s – the worst offender relying on taxpayers to pick up the slack for its low wages – was actually directing its workers to apply for public assistance on its McResource hotline.

Low-wage jobs have accounted for the bulk of new jobs added in the recovery, and retail and fast food are among the fastest-growing sectors, slowing the recovery and hurting our local economy. A recent study from the Economic Policy Institute finds that wages were flat or declined for the bottom 60 percent of workers from 2000 to 2012, even while productivity grew by 25 percent over this same period. And while median household income has risen, according to a new study, it is still more than 6 percent below pre-recession levels. That loss in income has been most acute among low-wage workers, who have also seen a disproportionate drop in real wages in the recovery.

Companies like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s have said that their low-wage jobs are stepping stones to better ones, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A report released last month by the National Employment Law Project reveals managerial positions make up just 2.2% of all jobs in the industry, proving that fast-food jobs are not the “launching pad” industry officials would like Americans to believe. Likewise, the industry’s claim that its workers are teenagers is simply not backed by fact. Seventy percent of fast-food workers are in their 20s or older and more than one-quarter of fast-food workers are raising at least one child.



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