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Proposal Targets County Businesses That Don't Pay A Living Wage

By aaroncynic in News on Oct 8, 2015 6:00PM

Photo by Kristi Sanford, IIRON
A new measure could force Cook County businesses that don't pay their workers a living wage to pay a fee that would go to county social programs.

The measure was proposed by Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele and is backed by local activist groups.

Dubbed the “Responsible Business Act,” the legislation would require corporations with more than 750 employees to pay $750 per one dollar less of the “Cook County Living Wage” of $14.57 an hour, or $11.65 for employees with benefits. According to statistics provided by the Center For Urban and Economic Development, the measure would net a $500 million increase in revenue, increase wages for more than 16,000 employees and add more than 600 jobs between 2015 and 2019. The proposal also covers salaried workers.

Companies affected would have to comply with incremental increases, starting with $10 an hour by this year, going all the way up to what the County Living wage is set at in 2019.

Proponents say poverty caused by low wages costs the economy some $1.2 billion, and that the Responsible Business Act would reward corporations for paying employees more while making those that don’t “pay for the cost of the damage they’re doing.” A statement from IIRON and National People’s Action, two grassroots community groups backing the measure said:

“The Responsible Business Act would begin to address the high cost of low-wages by requiring that corporations that refuse to pay a living wage pony up their fair share to support vital programs like child care that help workers survive.”

A county-wide poll of 1,020 voters conducted in August shows strong public support for the measure, as well as living wages for all workers. Nearly 75 percent of those surveyed said companies should be required to pay a living wage that can sustain a family, and those surveyed support the Responsible Business Act by a margin of 2 to 1.