Public Pressure Building, Chicago Mayor Says City Will Enact Mininum Wage Increase “This Winter”

by Mitchell Hirsch

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this week that Chicago would enact a citywide minimum wage increase “this winter,” but told an editorial board he would not support a proposed $15 per hour rate.  Under the mayor’s plan, the minimum wage would be raised in steps over the next four years to hit $13 per hour by June 1, 2018, and then be indexed to rise with inflation beginning in 2019.

Progressive Aldermen on Chicago’s City Council proposed a graduated plan to achieve a $15 per hour citywide minimum wage similar to one enacted this year in Seattle.  That plan, supported by many local community and fast-food workers’ groups, is backed by 21 of the Council’s 50 Aldermen – only five shy of a majority – and activists arepressing other Aldermen to join them.

Both the mayor’s and the Aldermen’s proposals would ultimately give workers in Chicago a higher minimum wage than would the $10 statewide Illinois minimum that voters will cast ballots on in a November 4 non-binding referendum.

Last month, as part of a nationwide day of fast-food worker protests calling for a $15 per hour wage floor and union rights, 50 Chicago-area protesters were arrested in acts of peaceful civil disobedience, bringing heightened public support for the movement to raise low-wage workers’ pay.

Mayor Emanuel’s proposal would increase the citywide minimum wage, currently the same as the Illinois state minimum of $8.25, in a set of annual steps:

$ 9.50 (June 1, 2015)

$10.75 (June 1, 2016)

$12.00 (June 1, 2017)

$13.00 (June 1, 2018)

Index to inflation (beginning June 1, 2019)

The minimum wage for tipped workers in Chicago would rise only modestly, to $5.95 under the mayor’s plan, while the Aldermen’s proposal would raise the tipped worker minimum to 70% of the full minimum wage, bringing it to $10.50 when the city rate would hit $15 per hour.