Chicago City Council Passes $13 Minimum Wage

by Mitchell Hirsch and Paul Sonn

On a 44-5 vote, the City Council in Chicago this week approved a citywide measure that increases the local minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2019, delivering a badly needed raise to more than 25% of Chicago’s workforce.  Chicago is now the largest U.S. city to enact a higher local minimum wage than either the state or federal minimum, and the eleventh city to do so this year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel – who had originally proposed just a $9 minimum wage for Chicago — championed the $13 wage after the Raise Chicago campaign and the Fight for $15 built broad public support for strong action on the minimum wage.  Also, in a late-breaking victory engineered by the Shriver Center, domestic workers – who are not covered by the Illinois minimum wage – were included in the city wage increase.

State lawmakers in Springfield, Illinois, meanwhile were haggling over proposals to raise the state minimum wage, with lobbyists for retail and fast food chains urging the legislature to limit Chicago’s power to raise the minimum wage in the future – a dangerous proposal that would limit city leaders’ ability to address inequality and the squeeze that Chicago’s middle class families are facing.  The legislature is also considering including wasteful tax give-aways to low-wage employers in a minimum wage package – something that Illinois with its serious budget problems can ill afford.   The state Senate voted this week for a proposal to raise the statewide minimum to $11 by 2019, but the House adjourned without taking action.  As a result, progress on the minimum wage is not expected until next year.

Chicago is now the twentieth U.S. city to enact a higher local minimum wage.

Under Chicago’s new minimum wage ordinance the citywide minimum will rise in each of the next five years to:

$10.00 July 1, 2015

$10.50 July 1, 2016

$11.00 July 1, 2017

$12.00 July 1, 2018

$13.00 July 1, 2019

A cost of living indexing provision would provide for automatic increases above $13 beginning July 1, 2020.