When the economic downturn occurred a few years ago, thousands of people throughout the United States, including Illinois, began to gather in rallies and protests over the economic divide that existed between them and the higher classes. These protests have led to movements here in Illinois and Chicago to raise the minimum wage for all workers. Here in Illinois, the majority of voters agreed in November that Illinois should pass a law to raise the state’s minimum wage over the next two years to $11 an hour.
However, Chicago has taken the plan one step further to assist over 400,000 workers in the city who currently make $8.25 an hour. With the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the city council has voted to raise Chicago’s wage to $13 an hour over the next four years. This year, workers’ wages will rise to $10 an hour, putting Chicagoans at a higher rate than other Americans. The mayor argues that this will give struggling workers the ability to meet the rising costs in living and hopefully encourage the state to follow the city’s example. Housing costs in Chicago is estimated to be 30 percent higher than in other cities and many live at or below the poverty line.
Before the decisive vote, many people in Chicago were pushing for an increase to $15 an hour, which would put Chicago on an advanced track with Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco, California. The argument is that increasing the wage will make life better for everyone but small business owners in the city disagree. During the city council’s vote, small business owners stated that they believe raising the minimum wage will actually hurt the city, making it less attractive to companies. They argued that small businesses may find it impossible to meet the higher wage for their workers and leave Chicago for areas where the minimum wage is less. It is even believed that some businesses could be forced to close if they are unable to afford the higher wage for workers.
While Chicago’s vote is good news to Chicagoans who support raising the wage, it has caused problems with the state legislature. Many are talking about taking away the city’s right to make that decision and businesses in Illinois are banding together to protect their interests in the matter. Currently, legislators are holding off a vote on state legislation that would raise the wage in Illinois, putting other minimum wage workers in limbo.