By Mason Johnson — This article is an opinion piece that solely reflects the viewpoints of the author…
May Day should be an important day for all of us — especially Chicagoans. A celebration of workers, America’s May Day actually started in Chicago as a commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre, a bombing that took place at Chicago’s Haymarket Square in 1886. At that time, workers were rallying for the eight-hour work day. Unfortunately for them, it was a dangerous time to be a protester. The story — which includes deadly clashes with police and conspiracies — is too large to cover here, but it’s one that’s fundamental to our history.
How have we lived up to that history?
There are many issues confronting workers today. One of the most important issues is the minimum wage, which has a lot of support, but has made little headway lately.
According to CBS News, Senate Republicans were able to block a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from even making it to the Senate floor for debate yesterday. Yes, you heard right, they didn’t have a vote on whether to pass it or not, they voted on whether to even debate it or not. And supporters of a raise to minimum wage lost.
At 54 to 42, the measure was six votes shy of the 60 votes it needed to demolish the Republican filibuster that’s been keeping it from the Senate floor.
This vote included Illinois Senators Mark Kirk, who voted no, and Dick Durbin, who voted yes.
Maybe it’s time to write your local Senator?
Currently, the Federal minimum wage is $7.25 and the Illinois minimum wage is $8.25.
As for Illinois, there seems to be plenty of supporters for a higher minimum wage. Gov. Pat Quinn has been calling for a higher minimum wage for months, trying to push the state minimum to $10.
“They’re putting in long hours. Yet in too many instances, they are living in poverty,” Quinn said of workers earning minimum wage. “That’s not right. That’s not an Illinois value.”
In March, the Illinois House Labor & Commerce Committee heard testimonies from supporters of minimum wage, obtaining opinions from a diverse group of individuals.
In the March primaries, Chicagoans weighed in with their opinions on minimum wage thanks to a referendum that appeared on ballots in select neighborhoods. Out of the 5 percent of precincts asked, about 87 percent voted yes.
Gov. Quinn’s Republican challenger for Governor, Bruce Rauner, is one person in Illinois who is not in favor of raising minimum wage. Having initially said he thinks Illinois should cut minimum wage by $1, Rauner has since said he would support a higher minimum wage under certain circumstances.
One thing’s for certain: it definitely sounds like Illinois has more support for a raise in minimum wage then the federal government.
As for me, I support a higher minimum wage (I doubt you’re surprised, having read this). To me, a low minimum wage, a minimum wage that hasn’t kept up with society and inflation, is an insult to all workers. If we can’t get a higher minimum wage passed soon — at both state and federal levels — I have a proposal: a maximum wage. If lower wage workers can have even the smallest amount of prosperity denied to them, then I say we take away the right to be insanely prosperous from the highest earners among us.
Before you call me a dirty commie, I should admit that this is far from an original idea. In America, the idea of a maximum wage goes back to the American colonies. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a maximum income during World War II, though admittedly, he wanted all excess money to go to the war efforts (which is the last place I’d want it to go).
But! I’m not unreasonable. My fervor for a maximum wage could easily be calmed by the passing of one, itsybitsy bill.
I’m sure you can guess which one I’m talking about.