Mayor, Labor Groups Push for $15 Minimum Wage by 2021

The city of Chicago has seen its minimum wage steadily rise in the last several years, from an hourly rate of $8.25 in 2014 to $13 today.

But labor activists and some public officials say it’s not nearly enough.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed a bill that would raise the minimum wage across the state, including in Chicago, to an hourly rate of $14 in 2024 and $15 in 2025, or higher if inflation rises faster. But during a downtown rally Thursday, unions and several elected officials said they want to see all employees in Chicago, in both the public and private sector, making $15 an hour by 2021.

Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward) introduced an ordinance earlier this summer that would do just that.

“2025 is too long to wait for Chicago’s working families,” Ald. Maria Haddon (49th Ward) said Thursday. “Rents, food, clothing and just about everything else is getting more expensive while wages stay stagnant.”

The rally also featured several union employees. Some, like Trina Cobbs, work in the public sector.

“With the minimum wage ordinance in place, it’ll give a little more room to spend in the room to be with my family, working overtime, and taking part time jobs and side hustles to make ends meet,” said Cobb, an assistant secretary with the Chicago Transit Authority. “I wouldn’t have to make a decision on whether I could pay for medicine or buy food, should I pay the utilities, or buy my children clothes and food.”

The “Fight for 15” campaign has been pushed by labor groups across the country. Supporters say that inflation has risen much faster than the minimum wage, and when you consider higher property taxes and other costs in Chicago, salaries aren’t keeping up.

Business groups say they plan to fight the new ordinance, and the Illinois Retail Merchants association says its members are still trying to figure out how to manage the most recent minimum wage hike.

“The concern that we’re having right now is that the costs for those who employ people have gone up tremendously, and you’re talking about making sure those companies continue to employ people and hire more people and give them more hours to work,” said IRMA President Tanya Triche Dawood. “Well that can’t happen if the costs of those businesses continue to go up.”

But Mayor Lori Lightfoot indicates this bill might be on a fast track.

“Ensuring Chicago adopts a $15 minimum wage by 2021 is a top priority for Mayor Lightfoot,” the mayor’s office said in a statement Thursday. “The administration is working with advocates to advance a legislative strategy to pass the $15 minimum wage in the coming months.”

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

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