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Aldermen, Activists Propose City Ordinance To Raise Minimum Wage To $15

By aaroncynic in News on May 28, 2014 7:30PM

2014_5_28_FF15.png Supporters of raising the minimum wage introduced an ordinance at a City Council meeting today that calls for an increase to $15 an hour. The proposal, backed by several Aldermen including John Arena, Joe Moreno and Roderick Sawyer, comes on the heels of a report released that shows a raise in the wage would benefit both workers and the City’s economy.

According to the plan, companies making more than $50 million a year would be required to first raise their minimum wage to $12.50 an hour within 90 days and then to $15 within a year. Smaller businesses would have to raise their wages at a more graduated rate, with a total of four years to get to $15. From there, the minimum wage in Chicago would rise with the rate of inflation.

“Study after study demonstrates that when you put money into the pockets of consumers, they spend it," Alderman Ricardo Munoz, who also backs the measure, told Reuters. "They don't hoard it in their mattresses.”

The recent report from the Center for Popular Democracy says a minimum wage increase would yield workers about $1.1 billion collectively, with an average annual income increase of $2,620 per individual. This would generate $74 million in personal income taxes to the state and yield $616 million in new economic activity.

At a press conference at City Hall, Tanika Smith, a fast food worker, said her current pay of $8.75 an hour, just 50 cents more than the minimum wage in Illinois, simply isn’t enough. “My car note is $500 a month, my rent is about $500, food is going up, lights are going up,” said Smith.

Raising the minimum wage is becoming a key issue with politicians statewide. Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave a panel of business, labor and civic leaders 45 days to draft a plan to raise the wage in Chicago. Gov. Pat Quinn has championed raising the state wage to $10.65 an hour, and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is pushing for a referendum on the November ballot to ask voters if the wage should be raised to $10 an hour.

Both the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Retail Merchant’s Association oppose an increase to the minimum wage. “We think it puts us at a competitive disadvantage,” Chamber CEO Theresa Mintle told Reuters. The Retailers Association has said that raising the wage would force businesses to cut both jobs and hours.

Ald. Moreno, however, disagrees.

“It’s gonna hurt the people at the top possibly. It’s not gonna hurt business. It never has. Raising the minimum wage in the United States has never, ever hurt the broader economy...Our economy has been splintered with those at the top having way more. The middle class is shrinking. We want the middle class to grow.”