Community Media Workshop Newstips: To grow jobs, raise wages

By Curtis Black, Newstips Editor

Workers and community groups continue a push to raise the minimum wage here, arguing that it’s a way for Illinois to reduce poverty and create thousands of new jobs.

Tuesday morning (July 24) at 8:30 a.m., a trolley will leave from 209 W. Jackson to visit three Dunkin Donuts and other low-wage employers, and at 2 p.m. at Presidential Towers (570 W. Monroe), Walmart workers will talk about the challenges of making ends meet on a their paychecks.

According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the largest and most profitable retailers pay lower wages than small and mid-sized companies in the industry.

Homecare workers will rally at the Thompson Center, Randolph and Dearborn, at 3 p.m., and at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, laid-off janitors will call on Mayor Emanuel to endorse an ordinance to protect jobs and wages when the city bids out contracts.

Fifty janitors lost their jobs last month when the city awarded a new janitorial services contract to a South Holland firm.  According to Progress Illinois, the Responsible Bidders Ordinance has the backing of a majority of aldermen – but it won’t move without Emanuel’s say-so.

With marches leaving at 4:30 from three locations – the Thompson Center, CPS headquarters (125 S. Clark), and P. J. Clarke’s (Ontario and St. Clair) – a thousand workers are expected for a march by Stand Up Chicago on the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce offices in the Aon Center, 200 E. Randolph.

In recent decades the minimum wage has fallen far behind inflation.

According to CTBA, a $2 increase would inject $2.5 billion into the state’s economy and generate 20,000 new jobs.  (Several studies of adjacent areas with different minimum wage laws have debunked the myth that wage increases cause job loss.)

It’s a jobs program that wouldn’t cost the state anything, said Ron Baiman of CTBA.

Businesses would benefit from lower worker turnover, saving the costs of recruiting and training new workers, he said.  And since the minimum wage sets a wage floor, an increase would raise wages further up the pay scale.

The Raise Illinois coalition has been building support for Senate Bill 1565, which would increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.65 over four years.  The bill passed the Senate Executive Committee in May, and could be considered in the fall veto session.