The United States has long been characterized as the world’s melting pot. This proud motto, however, does not explain how Chicago has been deemed the most segregated city in the country, and how prejudices against race and class affect the everyday lives of its citizens. The goal of protesters Wednesday, was to increase Chicago’s current minimum wage of $8.25, to a more livable wage of fifteen dollars an hour.
The melting pot was alive and well on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus, where groups such as: Action Now, Young Black Perspective, Faculty Forward, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Valemos Más, and many others joined forces to combat income inequality and promote a livable wage for all. Even Mayoral candidate Chuy García was in attendance.
Kate Walsch is an author, nurse, and lifelong social activist, who was more than happy to speak about the injustices facing working-class Chicagoans.
“We have to work on every aspect of social justice we can, because the right wing is attacking everything. The living wage is a really good way to start. Corporations will tell us they can’t afford it, but we know darn well that they most certainly can.”
Walsch made it apparent that the “right wing” isn’t just a political party. Rather, Walsch believes both democrats and republicans are responsible for what she calls a fascist adherence to the interests of corporations. While CEOs rake in billions, and businesses receive tax breaks for moving to new cities, those at the bottom of the income pyramid suffer most.
Brendan McQuade is a non-tenure track, full-time faculty member at DePaul University. McQuade joined the activist group Faculty Forward, an organization aimed at securing rights for adjunct professors who get paid on a course-to-course basis, and often have no benefits.
The reason this is so problematic, says McQuade, is that, “The corporate model is being applied to education. 60% of courses are taught by non-tenured track faculty.” Simply put, if the university hires a large number of part time professors, they are not liable to give them yearly salaries and benefits.
“Where the money is going,” explains McQuade, “is to executive administrator compensation, which has increased 170% at private universities since the late 1970s. Their salary has grown at three times the rate of professor compensation.”
The commonly held enemies appeared to be Governor Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. According to protestors, politicians are enabling wealthy business owners to cut benefits, aid, and education funds that many working class folks rely on. In a way, the practice of maintaining the minimum wage and slashing benefits is similar to repressing literacy in the medieval ages. Those working two or three jobs to get by simply don’t have the will power to fight back, and many turn to vices such as alcohol, or worse.
Regardless of their organization, every protester agreed that individuals on top are preying on those at the bottom. It was a somewhat odd spectacle to behold—people from every race and ethnicity dressed in the bright colors of their respective organization, each group separate, yet simultaneously together; giving hope to the cause, and the concept of the melting pot as a whole.
Eventually, the passions of revolution bubbled over on the UIC campus, and the protest began to move. The crowd marched down South Halsted, then headed east on Jackson Street toward the central business district. As the protesters trumped on, the group swelled, and the late afternoon sun shone brightly behind those hopeful of change.
If you would like to learn more, or join one of the organizations involved, please refer to the links below: