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Chicago Restaurant Workers to Protest the Expiration of Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits

Workers want the federal government to continue to pay the $600 employment bonuses

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Chicago food workers, like these at DImo’s Pizza in Bucktown, are on edge.
Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Restaurant workers across the country, including those in Chicago, are protesting Friday, wanting the federal government to continue paying out weekly $600 checks that have helped the unemployed survive during the pandemic. Payout of those checks is set to expire on July 31. But, as Chicago’s bars prepare to again close down Friday, the city’s service industry still needs help. For June, Chicago’s unemployment rate hit 16.4 percent, up from 15.5 percent in May, according to the latest figures from the Labor Department.

Two groups are partnering on the protest, slated for noon in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building in the Loop. Chicago Restaurant Workers, which began organizing in May. They’ve conducted virtually, discussing topics including how indoor dining is jeopardizing the health of restaurant workers during the novel coronavirus pandemic. They’re joined by Restaurant Workers United and Restaurant Organizing Project. They’ve organized protests in Austin, Dallas, Denver and Las Vegas.

Chris King, of Chicago Restaurant Workers, says the idea to protest developed three weeks ago as concerns mounted around the future of the program. Chicagoans showed a lot of support for the Day of Action. A Restaurant Workers United petition began circulating online and collected 2,000 signatures. About 400 where from Chicago-area workers, King says.

King hopes 100 workers show up to the protests. There have been many protests over the last few weeks, but this may be the first specific to the concerns of the restaurant industry. It’s important for the public to see workers protest, King says. Many have been pressed into difficult situations by returning to work as images of crowded bars and restaurants, with patrons ignoring social distance rules, have made their ways through social media over the last few weeks.

“I hope they can see restaurant workers need to have the funds to take care of themselves,” King says.

King says the plan is to meet in front of the Daley Center and to be back at 2 p.m., so participants could take part in other protests. There’s also a phone zap and social media blasts for those who can’t make it downtown for the protests. Groups, including Black Lives Matter Chicago, plan an afternoon rally to protest police brutality, to demand the closing of the Homan Square Chicago police “black site” where detainees were beaten and interrogated.

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