Ald. Will Burns shifts support to $13 minimum wage amid “Fight for 15″ campaign

Ald. WIll Burns (4th)

Ald. WIll Burns (4th)

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Staff Writer

A mayor-appointed task force co-chaired by Ald. Will Burns (4th) has called for a $13 minimum wage in Chicago.

Since its May formation, the 17-member Minimum Wage Working Group has held five public hearings and reviewed studies detailing the impacts of raising the city’s $8.25 minimum wage. Last Tuesday the group of political, business and non-profit leaders released a report entitled “A Fair Deal for Chicago’s Working Families,” calling for a $13 minimum wage for employees of all businesses by 2018.

Although Burns has come out before in support of a $15 minimum wage, he said the group’s recommendation seemed more in line with past federal minimum wage increases and took into consideration the cost of a minimum wage hike on employers.

“The costs associated with 13 [dollars] seemed to be much more manageable,” Burns said.

The task force’s recommendations come amid a “Fight For 15” campaign in Chicago to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 and ongoing efforts in both the Illinois House and Senate to raise the minimum wage to $10.65 by 2016. Yet at the same time that the panel recommended a $13 minimum wage, it argued against raising wages before the General Assembly convenes this November.

“One of the things that the working group was very concerned about was taking action before the state legislature meets during the fall veto session,” Burns said. “A number of southern and downstate legislators might say, ‘You know what, Chicago acted, we don’t need to do anything.’”

Even if the General Assembly raises the minimum wage this fall, Burns said he would support a $13 minimum wage in Chicago. He said the cost of living is greater in Chicago than in other parts of the state, and that a $13 wage would increase worker productivity, stimulate the economy and lift people out of poverty.

“Because of our costs, it’s really important that we factor that into what low wage workers are earning,” Burns said.

j.bishku@hpherald.com