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Chicago, Springfield Make Dueling Plays To Boost Minimum Wage

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 1, 2014 10:00PM

A possible hike in the minimum wage is on the agenda in Chicago’s City Council and in the Illinois Legislature this week. Let’s look at these latest attempts to boost the minimum wage by starting here at home shall we?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in his latest attempt to shed his “Mayor 1 Percent” image with the February mayoral election looming, called for a special City Council session 9 a.m. Tuesday, while the Workforce Development Committee is meeting as of post time to hammer out the details of any ordinance calling to raise the minimum wage. Emanuel introduced a plan in July to establish a $13 an hour minimum wage by 2018 and city departments have already promised that wage to contractors and subcontractors. But with the lame duck session in Springfield set to begin and Pat Quinn’s days as governor numbered, Emanuel is cracking the whip to get aldermen acting on the plan now.

One reason for the sense of urgency (besides it helping with Emanuel’s re-election chances) is the uncertainty the General Assembly will pass its own legislation boosting the minimum wage. Under the Emanuel proposal, the minimum wage in Chicago would jump from the current $8.25/hour to $10/hour in June, with the $13/hour Holy Grail still on target for 2018. Aldermen are on board with Emanuel’s play but some, as well as downstate lawmakers, would prefer any minimum wage hike in the city be tied to one in Illinois.

Here’s where the problem arises: the General Assembly is only discussing hiking the minimum wage to $10/hour next year and $11/hour for workers 18 and older by 2017. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton believes any minimum wage bill would pass his chamber but the wild card, as always, is in the House where Speaker Michael Madigan will have some work to do to get his 71-vote supermajority on board, send the bill for Quinn to sign into law and keep Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner from attempting to reverse it once he takes office.

It’s possible a minimum wage bill in Springfield will have a caveat forbidding the wage in Chicago to be higher, believing it would lead to higher unemployment and companies either closing or threatening to flee the Land of Lincoln. If that happens it would bring Republicans and pro-business Democrats on board but Madigan has an uncanny ability to snatch victory for the people of Illinois from their collective grasp out of pure ego and spite.

Emanuel’s main opponents in the upcoming election, Ald. Bob Fioretti and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, have championed a $15/hour minimum wage. Fioretti blasted Emanuel and Garcia in a statement.

While the Mayor’s $13 an hour plan is a nice start, waiting until 2019 puts working families’ paychecks just pennies above the poverty line.

A “historic” call from the County to raise the wage could’ve come at any time during this years-long battle, but instead was made at the 11th hour.

With the citizens of Chicago struggling to make ends meet, the minimum wage issue is far too important to be used for the creation of misleading political headlines. The lives and incomes of Chicago residents are not things to play with.

The workers I've been with chant ‘show me $15,’ not '$13 by 2019.' That means fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage today, which will both lift up Chicago working families and stop the state from limiting our ability to do the right thing. Should the state on Wednesday try to take away our ability to decide on this issue, I would ask the Governor for an amendatory veto of the preemption clause if it passes in Springfield.

As mayor, I will work with my colleagues at the city, county and state levels to make sure working families are making a living wage.