By Adam Kader
Illinois workers deserve a raise, and that’s exactly what Senate Bill 1565 proposes to do. A modest proposal, SB 1565 would allow Illinois minimum wage earners to catch up to the minimum wage they earned in 1969. The “real wage” is the wage adjusted for inflation. Since 1969, the minimum wage has not risen at the same rate that inflation has. In other words, today’s minimum wage earner is making less than she was in 1969!
Because the federal minimum wage historically has remained so low, states have had to compensate by raising their own. Illinois’ rate is at $8.25, higher than the federal rate of $7.25. However, those of us who earn minimum wage or organize minimum wage workers know, $8.25/hr, or approximately $16,500/yr, is not a wage on which an Illinoisan can live.
Dozens of organizations, as part of the Raise Illinois Coalition, are pushing to correct this problem by supporting SB 1565. We believe that a minimum wage increase is an important part of a range of responses needed to improve Illinois’ economy and to pull working people out of poverty.
The bill proposes to raise the minimum wage by 50 cents plus inflation each year, until we reach the historic minimum, roughly calculated to be $10.65 by the year 2014. If passed, the bill would help Illinois families most in need. It would benefit mothers and fathers employed in non-union service industries such as restaurants, childcare, janitorial and maintenance, car washes, retail, and dry cleaning. It would also help workers making just above their minimum wage-earning co-workers, such as “team-leaders” in fast food chains, as their wages also tend to increase when the minimum wage goes up.
The minimum wage increase is necessary to stimulate our economy. SB 1565 would help businesses, by giving workers more spending power and increasing consumer activity. When the wealthy earn more, they tend to save or invest their increased earnings, in contrast to low-wage earners who tend to spend. Minimum wage earners would spend their increase in earnings at the local grocery store, hardware store, and auto mechanic. The government, desperate for funds, stands to benefit from an increase in minimum wage, as an increase in workers’ earning and spending means an increase in tax revenue.
Illinoisans received annual minimum wage increases for the past five years. This month marks the first year that Illinois will not see its minimum wage go up. Now, in the midst of a recession, is the wrong time for us to cut workers’ spending power. Indeed, a study conducted by the Center for American Progress confirms that “An Increased Minimum Wage is Good Policy Even During Hard Times.”
On June 30th, the Raise Illinois Coalition held a press conference at the Chicago Temple to raise awareness about the importance of this bill. The public heard from Annette Jones, a home care worker, Bill Flynn, CEO of Paeon Partners, Pam Fox, Owner of Fox Hair, and Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, who described why they support a minimum wage increase.
Religious leaders also spoke in support of the bill: Rev. C.J. Hawking, Pastor at Euclid Avenue Methodist Church and Executive Director of Arise Chicago, Rev. Jason Coulter, Pastor at Ravenswood United Church of Christ and Board Member of Community Renewal Society, and Rev. Richard Mosley, Jr., Pastor at Hemenway United Methodist Church and Board Member of Protestants for the Common Good.
See coverage of the press conference:
Watch video of speakers at the press conference:
Find out more about SB1565 and increasing the minimum wage
– Adam is the Worker Center Director at Arise Chicago. Arise Chicago is a member of the Raise Illinois Coalition.