Wage boosters hit North Michigan Avenue

Wage boosters hit North Michigan Avenue

Is it time to raise the minimum wage in Illinois and fundamentally restructure how the state's lowest wage rate is calculated? Low-wage workers and their allies who think so campaigned for Senate Bill 1565 this morning along North Michigan Avenue, one of the city's toniest commercial districts.

SB 1565 went nowhere during the spring legislative session in the Illinois General Assembly and now sits dormant in the House assignments committee. The legislation would provide an annual $0.50 boost, plus an additional cost of living increase, to the state's minimum wage until it reached the equivalent of $1.60 in 1968 dollars.

Minimum wage rates have been eroding for years; $1.60 in '68 amounts to a wage of $10.39 per hour in today's dollars, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' calculator. Illinois' minimum wage currently stands at $8.25 per hour, a $1 higher than the federal minimum. The state minimum would also be adjusted annually to ensure the wage stay equivalent to what it was in 1968, according to SB 1565.

Last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 percent of the state's workforce ages 16 and up earned at or below the federal minimum.

The bill also expands the scope of the state minimum wage law--workers "[i]n domestic service in or about a private home" would also come under the law's purview, for example. And employers would have to pay tipped employees the full minimum wage, rather than the 60 percent of the state minimum they are permitted to offer employees who get tips presently.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford served as chief sponsor of the bill. Fourteen other legislators, most them representing minority districts in the Chicago area, also signed on as sponsors.

© Community Renewal Society 2011

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