Labor Rights

Chicago Raises Minimum Wage But Could Face Opposition From State

The Chicago City Council Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill increasing the state’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by mid-2019, but that decision could come under fire at the state level.

via Wisconsin Jobs Now
via Wisconsin Jobs Now

The Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s measure in a 44-to-5 vote. It implements the increase with lesser, incremental rises in the tipped minimum wage through 2016. The current minimum wage throughout the state is $8.25. The new bill calls for an initial increase to $10 by the start of 2015.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel called the special session of the City Council in advance of the Illinois General Assembly’s reconvening. The General Assembly is expected to approve a smaller, statewide increase of $10 an hour. The state’s measure would have prohibited Chicago from going any higher, but some opponents of the new law argue Chicago may be forced to fall in line with the lower state limit.

“There’s a question out there about whether the city has the authority to implement its own minimum wage set apart  from the state,” Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said. “I don’t know that that question has necessarily been answered by the courts yet. And it’s certainly worth looking into.”

Mayor Emanuel, however, defended the city’s move. “If we had not moved, [Chicago] could have been locked in place and we would not see a minimum wage…reflective of the cost-of-living in Chicago,” he said. He believes the city’s home-rule authority should insulate the city from any attempt to roll back the law.

Organizers and activists who have long been engaged in the fight for a higher wage are still pushing for a $15 minimum. They responded with critical praise for the new law. “In the past seven days, the mayor has shown us what is possible when he has the political will to make things happen,” Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Illinois Action said in a statement. “He could have given Chicago a raise a year ago. Chicago families need progress every year, not just during election year.” The group said it will continue to fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

However, others lauded other advances made by the bill. “This groundbreaking vote means that Chicago’s household workers will finally gain the same protections that most other workers have had for decades,” Myrla Baldonado, an organizer with Latino Union of Chicago and a domestic worker, said. For the first time in history, the law includes wage protections for domestic workers and caregivers.

The Illinois General Assembly’s three-day veto session ends this week.

Media Resources:  City of Chicago 12/2/14; Chicago Sun-Times 12/2/14; Progress Illinois 12/2/14; Reuters 12/2/14; Equal Voice 12/2/14;  State Journal Register 11/30/14

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