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Groups Continue Beating Drums For Minimum Wage Raise

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 31, 2014 9:30PM

A scene from a Fight for $15 protest in May. (Photo credit: Aaroncynic/Chicagoist)

The call to raise the minimum wage both in the city and statewide grew louder this week as several groups pushing for various increases to the current state wage of $8.25 an hour continued their efforts.

Fast food workers with the “Fight For 15” movement rallied at the Rock 'n Roll McDonald’s, calling on the company to raise its workers wages to $15 an hour and allow them to form a union. The rally came after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the corporate fast food giant plays a key role in decision making in its 12,500 franchise locations. If upheld, the ruling, issued by the NLRB’s general counsel on Tuesday, says that McDonald’s can be held liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise owners.

In a statement provided by the Worker’s Organizing Committee of Chicago, who has spearheaded the movement in Chicago, Cecilia Velazquez, an employee of the River North location said:

“McDonald's can no longer pretend they don't have control of how little we get paid or for the serious disrespect we experience daily.”

The New York Times reports McDonald’s plans to contest the ruling. “McDonald’s also believes that this decision changes the rules for thousands of small businesses, and goes against decades of established law,” said Heather Smedstad, Senior Vice President.

Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel formally introduced a plan from his Minimum Wage Task Force Committee to the Chicago City Council that would raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour over the next four years. According to the plan, the minimum wage would first rise from $8.25 an hour to $9.50, then increase by $1.25 an hour until it hits $13 in 2018. CBS2 reports Emanuel said the plan impacts some 400,000 workers in the city.

Critics called the mayor’s plan “woefully inadequate,” pointing to a city ordinance for $15 an hour that has the support of 22 aldermen. According to information provided by Action Now, a group allied with the Raise Illinois campaign, which is also backing a statewide ordinance for $10.65 an hour, the four year phase-in period means that by the time the minimum wage hits $13 an hour, it would only be 9 cents above the federal poverty line in 2018. Business leaders aren’t happy about the proposal either, but for opposite reasons. Representatives from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association told CBS2 a higher minimum wage would drive businesses out of the state.

On a state level, Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-9) are pushing for a bump to $10.65 an hour. Both Quinn and Schakowsky took the minimum wage challenge to call attention to a non-binding ballot initiative that will ask voters on November fourth if they support a $10.65 an hour increase by 2015. Speaking at a press conference in the loop last weekend, Schakowsky said:

“Understanding what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a low-wage worker, trying to survive on $77 a week for basic expenses and often supporting a family, has only fueled my commitment to raise the minimum wage both in Illinois and across our country.”