Why a living wage?

Ald. Will Burns (4th)
Ald. Will Burns (4th)


Chicago workers deserve a living wage. Last week, I was asked to co-chair a panel that aims to find effective, meaningful ways of increasing the city’s minimum wage. And while our leaders in Springfield work to set standards that meet the needs of Illinois, our focus will be the needs of Chicagoans who are overworked and underpaid, relative to our local economy.

A minimum wage that fits the cost of living in places like Bloomington, Decatur or Carbondale may not suffice for the people of Chicago. If we’re serious about giving members of our community a pathway out of poverty — and that is something I take very, very seriously — we need to find a solution that works not only for our local businesses, but for the men and women who are working tirelessly just to make ends meet.

For the last few decades, national policies that have sought to grow the economy from the top down have failed. Money that finds its way to the top has a tendency to stay there. It’s not used for groceries, for gas or for other basic amenities that hourly workers currently struggle to buy.

Growing an economy from the bottom up gives folks a fighting chance. But just as important, growing an economy from the bottom up broadens the customer bases for local companies, creating more business, more jobs and more money that goes back into the local economy.

We’re looking forward to a robust process that gathers input from varying points of view. We anticipate collaboration through public hearings, meetings and constituent outreach.

I’m ready to get to work on this issue, and I’m proud to help lead. Together, with business and community leaders, and with other members of City Council, we’re going to take a critical first step in pulling our communities out of poverty. Let’s work to put our friends and neighbors back on their feet, with enough money in their pockets to live a decent life.