Minimum wage hike goes to Illinois Senate

Small business owner Edwin Cobb, a community leader active with CCH, testified before an Illinois Senate committee that voted later Wednesday to recommend raising the Illinois minimum wage by 50 cents a year.

(Mr. Cobb is shown, above left, with members of Action Now and State Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicag0.)

The Senate Executive Committee voted 9-5 along party lines (all Democrats in favor, all Republicans against) to recommend SB 1565 be put to a full Senate vote. Chief sponsor is Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), with backing from CCH and other allies in Raise Illinois

Illinois minimum wage rose to $8.25 almost two years ago. If enacted, SB 1565 would increase the wage by 50 cents a year. Phased-in hikes would bring the Illinois minimum wage to $10.55 in 2015, after which yearly cost-of-living increases would occur.

A wage increase is opposed by some business sectors, but Edwin Cobb, of Chicago’s Lawndale community, testified in a Senate hearing that he supports a minimum wage that is “a living wage.” Mr. Cobb is a leader for the CCH Jobs Project, working with organizer Jim Picchetti.

“I feel that the more money people in Illinois have, the more money they will spend at my businesses and other businesses here in Illinois,” Mr. Cobb testified.

“I stand before you today, not speaking from a vicarious experience, but I myself, had to work two to three jobs in order to raise my family off minimum wages. And at one point I had to quit one of my three jobs, which meant that I wasn’t going to have enough to support either me or my son.”

A spokesman for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association claimed in news reports that a wage hike would not relieve a 48% unemployment rate among Chicago teens.

But Sen. Lightford disputes that, as reported by the downstate News-Gazette: “In fact, over 80% of minimum-wage employees are adults. Many of them have households and families, and with our economic downturn … many college graduates are now working minimum-wage jobs.

“I think it’s really important that if you’re willing to work a 40-hour week you shouldn’t live in poverty. An individual working 40 hours on our current minimum wage, they make about $16,000 a year.”

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law also testified about research by Marc Doussard, a professor in urban planning at the University of Illinois-Chicago. His research shows that a minimum wage hike would allow families to increase their consumer spending, creating $2 billion in increased economic activity and 20,000 new jobs.

– Anne Bowhay, Media