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Minimum Wage to Be Raised to $13 an Hour for Employees of City Contractors

By Ted Cox | September 3, 2014 10:02am | Updated on September 3, 2014 1:24pm
 Backed by city Chief Procurement Officer Jamie Rhee, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he expects the increase in the minimum wage to have a ripple effect on all pay scales.
Backed by city Chief Procurement Officer Jamie Rhee, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he expects the increase in the minimum wage to have a ripple effect on all pay scales.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued an executive order Wednesday to boost Chicago's minimum wage to $13 an hour for workers employed by contractors and subcontractors on city business.

"People need a pay raise," Emanuel said, adding that "the minimum wage is the point of the spear" in raising all wages, along with providing health care and other benefits.

Emanuel allowed that most city construction workers are already making much more $13, that it would only affect about 1,000 workers initially and that an existing city ordinance already establishes a living wage of $11.93 for city workers.

Yet he said the heightened minimum wage would be extended to all workers serving under a city contract, and that he hopes to bring the same wage to all of the city's minimum-wage workers, even those working in private businesses, which he put at 400,000, through a city ordinance he's proposed.

"This is a down payment on the goal for all 400,000 people," Emanuel said. "This is the first 1,000."

City Chief Procurement Officer Jamie Rhee called Wednesday's move "a bold step going forward."

"It impacts everybody," Rhee said.

According to the mayor's press office, the move is "the first step taken by the city to ensure that all employees contracted with the City of Chicago are provided with sufficient wages for a shot at the middle class."

The new rule will impact city contracts advertised after Oct. 1.

The mayor has submitted a proposed ordinance to raise the city's minimum wage to $13 over the next four years. Yet progressive aldermen have been joined by others in the City Council in pushing a bid to hike the minimum wage to $15 for workers with companies making more than $50 million, such as major fast-food franchises and shopping chains.

Supporters of the $15 minimum wage have said it would affect poor workers who would no doubt plow the increase directly back into the economy. Yet business groups have argued that it would "destroy" the minimum-wage job market.

Deborah Sawyer, owner of Environmental Design International in the Loop, where the announcement was made, said increasing the minimum wage was about leveling the playing field between well-intentioned businesses and others.

"It really helps keep things fair for all businesses — especially small businesses," Sawyer said.

Added Emanuel, "There are a lot of small businesses that are already doing this."

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics already ranks Illinois among the top five states in mean hourly wage for construction workers, with the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville area producing an average construction wage above $25 an hour.

Emanuel's Press Office estimated the executive order will immediately apply to about 1,000 workers, "typically employed as landscapers, maintenance workers, security officers, concessionaires and in custodial services."

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