King pushes early increase in city’s minimum wage

Ald. Sophia King (4th) speaks at a press conference held by the Raise Chicago coalition of unions and community groups about her bill to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2021. (Photo courtesy of SEIU Healthcare)

Staff writer

Saying it would give 400,000 Chicagoans a raise, Ald. Sophia King (4th) filed a bill to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2021 — not 2025, as the General Assembly mandated earlier this year.

King’s measure has 37 co-sponsors, including Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who was at her side at a Wednesday morning City Hall press conference held by Raise Chicago, a coalition of labor, community and advocacy groups pushing for the increase.

The minimum wage in Chicago is currently $12 per hour; it will rise to $13 on July 1, but no further increases are scheduled until 2025 except adjustments for inflation.

“With a much higher cost of living in the city compared to downstate, plus housing, transportation and health care taking a bigger bite out of workers’ paychecks, we must continue to maintain the approximately $4 differential that we currently have with the state for several more years to come,” King said.

Under her bill, the Chicago minimum wage would rise to $14 an hour on July 1, 2020, and $15 a year later.

King said her proposal would “end the discriminatory sub-minimum wage for tipped workers” by phasing out their lower minimum wage — set to rise to $6.40 on July 1, 2019. “Research shows that tips are discriminatory; white men receive more than women or people of color while tip amounts have little to do with service or quality,” she said.

It would include workers in occupations left out by the city’s existing ordinance such as “workers at the city’s sister-agencies, youth employment programs, and transitional employment programs.

“I know businesses are concerned about government regulation hampering jobs creation, but research has shown time and time again that similar wage increases have been associated with positive impacts on incomes and economies, with little to no effect on employment,” said King. “This is a positive thing. Increasing the minimum wage puts more money in workers pockets who then go out and spend that money in their communities.”

The bill was referred to the Committee on Workforce Development.

In other news, King was named vice-chair of the City Council’s 17-member Progressive Reform Caucus on Wednesday. Hairston has been a member since its foundation in 2013.