CITY HALL — Joined by half of the City Council, the mayor Wednesday formally moved to raise the minimum wage in Chicago to $13 an hour over the next four years.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel submitted an ordinance that would raise the minimum wage in the city from the state's $8.25 to $9.50 next June, $10.75 a year after that, $12 the year after that and $13 in June 2018, followed by automatic raises tied to the rate of inflation.
"Usually, this is a discussion that's polarized," Emanuel said in a news conference following Wednesday's City Council meeting. "Usually, the conversation on minimum wage is 'this is bad for business, particularly small business.'"
Yet Emanuel said the Minimum Wage Work Group he appointed in May for roundtable discussions on the topic had determined otherwise.
"There is more to this conversation than 'employees over here, and employers over there,'" he added.
According to Emanuel, they determined that a hike in the minimum wage is good for business, producing a more stable, loyal, productive workforce with less employee turnover.
"We're ready to move as a city," he added, citing the support of 24 aldermen, including several who sat on that roundtable committee.
Yet critics advocating a hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour said Emanuel's proposal doesn't go far enough. Katelyn Johnson, executive director of the neighborhood group Action Now, issued a statement pointing out "there is already an ordinance for $15 that has the support of 21 aldermen." She cited the spring primary, in which 86 percent of voters in a local advisory referendum favored the $15 minimum wage.
"When the people of Chicago came out for the public hearings of the Minimum Wage Working Group, nearly every speaker called for a $15 minimum wage," Johnson added. "A $15 minimum wage is a clear mandate from the people of Chicago, and the mayor’s ordinance that doesn't even take effect until June 1st, 2018, sells out hardworking Chicagoans who can’t afford to wait."
The mayor's proposal "completely leaves out huge swaths of the workforce," she added, as domestic workers are completely left out and tipped workers are only given a $1 increase. Johnson also took issue with the delayed rollout of the full $13, and how it makes no distinction between small businesses and large ones like McDonald's and Walmart, the primary targets of the proposed $15 ordinance.
With no council meeting set for August, the two sides will have extra time to try to reach a compromise on the two positions.
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