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Minimum Wage Task Force Holding Public Meeting in Uptown

 Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.
Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.
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Public Building Commission

UPTOWN — A city task force weighing the pros and cons of increasing the minimum wage in Chicago plans to hold a public hearing in Uptown on Thursday ahead of releasing a report on its findings next month.

Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave., will host the meeting — the third of five such events scheduled by the mayoral-appointed Minimum Wage Working Group.

A final report from the task force, chaired by John Bouman, president of the Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and Ald. Will Burns (4th), is expected in early July. It will include recommended wage hikes for minimum wage workers and tipped employees, according to the city.

Burns has called the potential increase "a game changing impact for thousands of working families."

A coalition of aldermen in Chicago have proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 within a year for big businesses and over four years for smaller ones, and ensuring that tipped workers make at least 70 percent of the minimum wage rate. Chicagoans voted overwhelmingly in support of a $15 minimum wage in an advisory referendum earlier this spring. 

“Chicagoans deserve a raise and I strongly encourage residents across the City to make their voices heard over the coming weeks," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement earlier this month. 

Illinois voters have the opportunity to let state lawmakers know their stance on increasing the state's minimum wage to $10 from $8.25 via an advisory referendum. Critics charge that the increase would be a jobs killer that burdens businesses and puts the state at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping businesses and attracting new ones. 

But a presentation from the city argues that the current minimum wage is low by historical standards, that rising inflation has outpaced rises in the minimum wage, so that the minimum wage today is worth a few dollars less than its real value peak of $10.56 in 1968.  

The city also noted that about 22.1 percent of Chicagoans are living below the poverty line compared to 13.7 percent of the overall Illinois population and 14.9 percent of U.S. residents. Meanwhile, living costs are increasing and "affordable housing is increasingly unattainable." 

President Barack Obama has said he supports increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25.

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