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As a prelude to more widespread protests on April 15, a group of demonstrators gathered outside a Chicago Food 4 Less store last Saturday demanding $15 an hour and a union. Eventually the group went inside the store to disturb shoppers until the Chicago police intervened and the protest wound down.
Numerous unions were part of the group, including the Chicago Teachers Union, the UFCW, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and AFSCME, among others. In fact, it’s possible that members of these unions made up the entire contingent of protestors since, as even the sympathetic outfit Progress Illinois had to report, “Food 4 Less employees did not participate in the protest.” Protest organizers claimed this was because employees were “mysteriously scheduled” to work on Saturday. Why working on Saturday is mysterious is something of a mystery itself since every Food 4 Less store in Chicago is open on the weekends.
This lack of employee interest in the Food 4 Less protest is par for the course when it comes to the Fight for $15 demonstrations. Few workers really seem all that interested in the so-called “strikes” that organizers call their made-for-media protests, and news outlets have reported that the same group of alleged strikers are bussed from one city to another to give the appearance of unrest breaking out in multiple locations.
Indeed, the protests themselves aren’t exactly grassroots upswellings, but rather are organized, funded, and directed by the SEIU, which has put millions of dollars into fast food demonstrations over the past two years.
April 15 will bring another round of fast food protests and accompanying press, which seems to be the real goal. Whether any more than a handful of actual employees take part is another question—and if history is any guide it’s likely to be answered in the negative.