ROSELAND — A group of black pastors gathered at a South Side church Wednesday to advocate for an increase in the state's minimum wage to $10.65 and said by doing so it would help rescue families living in poverty.
"Had minimum wage kept up with the cost of living, it would be $10.65 and not $8.25 as it stands now," said Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. "No one should have to work 40 hours a week and still live in poverty."
A worker in Illinois earning the current minimum wage of $8.25 per hour earns $330 a week or $16,830 a year, "and that's before taxes and any payroll deductions," Moss said.
The group is urging residents to call their state senators and encourage them to support SB68, which is sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-4th District). The bill would amend the state's minimum wage and increase it to $10.65 per hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and Washington state currently pays the highest minimum wage at $9.19 per hour.
Those affected the most by minimum wage are black women, said Rev. Valerie Parker, director of social action of the 4th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
"Women of color are more likely to be working in minimum wage jobs and many of these women are single mothers," Parker said. "And in order for these women to provide for their children independently and not the government, they need a raise."
Governor Pat Quinn also supports increasing the state's minimum wage but only to $10 per hour and over four years.
“Do we want, in the years to come, a prosperous Illinois where working people continue to have good jobs, where businesses thrive, and where all our children have a world-class education?” Quinn said during his State of the State address in February. “Or do we want to stop the progress and watch our economic recovery stall?”
Small business owners like Julius McKinney are worried that an increase could cause a slowdown in hiring.
"I am all for people being paid fair wages but the economy is still recovering and most small business owners are not in a position to pay higher wages," added McKinney, owner and managing director of Full-Time Logistics, a commercial truck driving school.
Still, Rev. Nathaniel Waddles, pastor of Kendrick Memorial Baptist Church, said if taxpayers could bail out the auto and banking industry, then surely it could see fit to support a modest raise for the underpaid.
"A raise means a minimum wage earner would gross $426 a week or a little over $22,000 a year, which is still not much but better than what they are currently getting," Waddles said.