CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel said a task force’s recommendation to raise the city’s minimum age to $13 an hour by 2018 would help businesses and workers alike.
A panel appointed by the mayor has recommended raising the current $8.25 per hour minimum wage in Chicago by $1.25 a year for each of the next three years, followed by a $1 increase in 2018, for a total of $13 an hour in four years.
After that, the panel said annual increases in the minimum wage should be tied to the rate of inflation. The task force approved the recommendation on Monday by a 13-3 vote. The three members of the panel who represent Chicago businesses voted no.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the mayor defended his task force’s recommendations. He hopes state lawmakers raise the minimum wage for the all of Illinois first, but the city will likely move regardless.
“Nobody who works should raise a child in poverty. That’s the American way,” Emanuel said.
The current Chicago minimum wage of $8.25-an-hour works out to $16,500 for a full-time job at 40 hours a week. For a single parent of two, that wage falls below the federal poverty line, which is $19,790 for a family of three.
A representative of the Chicago Retail Merchants Association was among the three task force members who voted against the minimum wage hike proposal approved on Monday. The group said businesses in the city would be put at a disadvantage, and might have to cut jobs or close down with a $13-an-hour minimum wage.
But the mayor insisted a higher minimum wage would be good for business.
“It helps them save on job-training dollars, because they can make work pay, and they keep workers longer,” he said. “One of the strengths of raising the minimum wage, for businesses, is that you get loyalty of workers. One of the big complaints … from company leaders – small, medium, and large – is the fact is they can’t find enough qualified workers, and workers leave with some frequency because of turnover.”
He also said phasing in the higher minimum wage would make it easier on small businesses.
The task force’s recommendation also called for increasing wages for tipped employees from $4.95 an hour to $5.95 an hour over the next two years, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation.
Republican critics have suggested Emanuel is supporting a higher minimum wage to turn out Democratic votes in November, but Emanuel noted he has long advocated hiking the minimum wage.
“I would say that if nobody had ever done anything like this, I’d understand what I personally think is a cynical charge; that we’re only doing this for the election. No, we’re doing this to make sure that those who work for a living work to make ends meet,” he said.
A group of at least 10 aldermen already has introduced a proposed ordinance that would go further than the mayor’s task force recommended. Their proposal would gradually raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Companies with more than $50 million in annual revenue would have 90 days from the date of passage to increase their minimum wage to $12.50 an hour, and a year to go up to $15 an hour. Smaller companies would have longer to comply – 15 months to go up to $12 an hour, two years to reach $13 an hour, three years to pay $14 an hour, and four years to match the $15 an hour minimum wage.
The mayor’s task force recommended holding off on any vote on raising the city’s minimum wage until after state lawmakers vote on legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage during their fall veto session.
Gov. Pat Quinn already has signed legislation to place a question on the November ballot asking voters if the state’s minimum wage should be increased to $10 per hour.
Supporters of a minimum wage hike held a series of rallies earlier this year, to show support for a $15 an hour minimum wage.
They’re not happy with the task force’s recommendation.
“Any recommendation that is less than $15 is an insult to the hundreds of fast food workers that have risked their jobs and made sacrifices for the well-being of this city. Chicago fast food workers will not sit back and wait for politicians to act, we will continue to bring our fight to the $200 billion a year fast food industry until we win,” the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago said in a statement.