In a historic vote, the City Council yesterday voted to increase the minimum wage for workers in Chicago to $13 an hour by 2019. I was proud to be one of the lead sponsors of the measure.
A job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it.Workers should be paid enough to support their family and give them a fighting chance to reach the middle class.
The ordinance will increase the minimum wage in stages to help small businesses adjust to the increase. The minimum wage will rise to $10 next July, $11 in 2017, and a final minimum wage of $13 by 2019. After 2019, the minimum wage will increase automatically at the same rate as the cost of living.
The ordinance also increases the tipped minimum wage in Chicago by $1 over two years from the current state minimum of $4.95 to $5.45 as of July 1, 2015 and $5.95 as of July 1, 2016, and will be indexed to inflation every July 1 going forward.
I was part of a 16-member “Minimum Wage Working Group,” consisting of community, labor and business leaders that last summer proposed a $13 minimum wage in Chicago. The City Council members of the Working Group are pictured on the left (photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune). They include (left to right) Alderman Patrick O’Connor, 40th; myself; Aldermen Will Burns, 4th; Walter Burnett, 27th; Ameya Pawar, 47th; and Emma Mitts, 37th.
To his credit, Mayor Emanuel quickly endorsed the recommendations of the Working Group and pledged his full support.
lead sponsor of the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance in 2006, which required big box retailers, such as Wal-Mart, to pay their workers a living wage, I know first-hand that a groundbreaking measure such as enacting a City of Chicago minimum wage can only happen with strong mayoral support. I was able to convince my City Council colleagues to pass the Big Box Living Wage measure 2006, only to have it vetoed by then-Mayor Richard Daley.
In contrast, Mayor Emanuel strongly backed an increase in the minimum wage and his support ensured its easy passage in the City Council.
Of course, none of this would have happened had it not been for the work of grassroots labor and community organizations, who campaigned vigorously for the enactment of a City minimum wage. The groundwork for the City Council’s action was laid by the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago and the Fight for 15 campaign, which sought a $15/hour minimum wage and brought the issue of income inequality in our City to the forefront.
Though the ordinance falls short of $15, the $13 in Chicago minimum wage remains one of the highest in the nation, especially when taking into account the higher cost of living in San Francisco and Seattle, the only major U.S. cities that have enacted a $15 minimum wage.
The current U.S. Congress clearly is unwilling to raise the federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 since 2009. And it is far from certain the Illinois General Assembly will enact an increase in the state minimum wage beyond the current $8.25.
The new Chicago minimum wage will lift thousands of working families in Chicago out of poverty. Chicago’s economy in turn will benefit, as those workers will spend their new raise buying products and services in the local economy.
I have been fighting for living wages for years and I’m thrilled to have been a part of the effort to implement the first-ever minimum wage for the City of Chicago.