Chicago Aldermen Present City Council with Increased Minimum Wage Ordinance
Lee Edwards | 6/4/2014, 4:03 p.m.
Last week, Chicago aldermen were joined at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., by Raise Chicago, a grassroots coalition working to ensure that major corporations who make over $50 million in profits pay a living wage of $15/hr., to announce the introduction of a $15 an hour minimum wage ordinance, sponsored by Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th), Alderman John Arena (45th), and Alderman Joe Moreno (1st).
“I’ve been in this since the beginning, I’ve always believed that minimum wage has trailed behind where the economy generally is and it’s time that we right that ship,” said First Ward Alderman Joe Moreno.
The ordinance stipulates that corporations with annual profits over $50 will be allowed one year to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage pay rate; small to mid-sized business would have slightly more than five years to make the $15 an hour minimum wage adjustment.
On March 18th, Gubernatorial Election Day, the Raise Chicago ballot referendum to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for corporations that make over $50 million a year was passed with 87% support city-wide. This ordinance will be entering City Council with a firm mandate from voters that it is time for elected officials to stand up for working families by creating a livable minimum wage that reflects the increasing costs of living in the city of Chicago.
According to a report and budget calculator by the Economic Policy Institute, a one-parent, one-child family requires at least $48,840 in annual income to meet basic needs for shelter, clothing, food, and medical care in Chicago. No one can support a family when making the current minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, which equals just $17,000 per year for a full-time worker.
“Our members are hardworking Chicagoans who care about improving their neighborhoods and have worked tirelessly to get the $15 wage referendum on the ballot. We have gone door-to-door talking to the people of Chicago and they agree that $15 an hour is the minimum needed to survive in Chicago without relying on public assistance,” said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.
Similar to Chicago’s new minimum wage ordinance, the Illinois Congress passed House Bill HB3814 (HB3814) that will add a referendum to the November 2014 general election ballot and will ask Illinoisans to decide on whether or not the minimum wage for adults over 18-years-old should be raised to $10 per hour by January 1, 2015. The vote holds no legal power regardless of outcome.
“The minimum wage should be a living wage,” said State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood), who is primary supporter of the bill in the Senate. “If you work full-time, you shouldn’t have to rely on government support to put food on your family’s table or a roof over your head.”
Governor Quinn recently said that he “looked forward” to signing the bill if once it passed the Illinois House and Senate.
“Raising the minimum wage will benefit hundreds of thousands of hardworking men and women across our state,” said Quinn. “Higher wages for employees means they will spend more at local businesses, which in turns boosts economic growth. As we work to build a majority to raise the minimum wage in Illinois, this referendum will help us get the job done.”
The Center for Popular Democracy studied the potential effects of a minimum wage increase of $15 for Chicago corporations that made over $50 million and found that such an increase would generate $616 million in new economic activity, $45 million in new sales tax revenue and 5,350 new jobs. A $15 minimum wage is not only a practical way to generate economic growth, it is a necessary step in addressing the skyrocketing income inequality in Chicago that is devastating our communities.
The National Employment Law Project recently released a report on the makeup of the workforce that would be affected by a $15 increase. Their key findings were that 38 percent of Chicago’s workers, or 510,000 people, earn less than $15 per hour, including disproportionate numbers of female, black and Hispanic workers. 96 percent of workers who earn less than $15 per hour are over 20 years old. Over 35 percent are parents supporting children, and over 48 percent of all working single parents in Chicago earn less than $15 per hour.