Chicago set to raise minimum wage

In this photo taken Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about his future plan for Chicago during a visit to a city maintenance facility in Chicago. Chicago is set to become the latest U.S. city to raise its minimum wage, as Emanuel fast-tracks a politically popular plan to reach $13 per hour amid his bid for a second term and criticism that he's out-of-touch with working people. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
In this photo taken Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about his future plan for Chicago during a visit to a city maintenance facility in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

Chicago is a getting a raise.

The city council on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of Mayor Emanuel’s plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019.

The move comes after a task force created by the mayor recommended in July that the city was due for a raise. Also preceding today’s actions were the results of a statewide advisory referendum that overwhelmingly approved of a statewide increase in the price floor to $10 an hour.

With action on the issue in Springfield appearing stalled, the city acted with a 44-5 vote of the council. According to the mayor’s office, the move will have a direct effect on over 400,000 people and provide an $800 million boost to the city’s economy.

The five aldermen who opposed the measure include Matt O’Shea (19th Ward) and Mary O’Connor (41st Ward), who both worried about losing businesses to the suburban communities that border their wards, as well as Tom Tunney (44th Ward), a small business owner himself.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward), whose ward includes DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus, and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42 Ward), who represents portions of DePaul’s Loop campus, both voted no.

In a statement, Smith said that “Chicago has never, in its history, had a minimum wage that differed from that of the rest of the state. Not only will a $13 per hour wage provide a major disincentive to businesses considering opening their doors in Chicago, but will result in in lay-offs and higher prices, and serve as a deterrent to consumers, many of whom already choose to shop and buy gas in the suburbs.”

Smith, however, said that she is not against raising the minimum wage, but that it would have to be “practical” and that she would prefer for a statewide increase to ensure that Chicago businesses are not put at a disadvantage over their suburban counterparts.

For some, however, $13 is not enough. While the anti-Emanuel progressive caucus, led by mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward), ultimately voted in favor of the increase, they would like to see an increase to $15 an hour.

“While I’m proud to support today’s increase in the minimum wage, we can’t stop fighting now,” Fioretti said in a statement. “Rahm Emanuel could’ve pushed this legislation earlier, and he could’ve pushed for $15 an hour today. The chant in the streets here and nationwide has been ‘show me $15,’ not ‘show me $13 by 2019.’”

With less than three months before the mayoral election, many have speculated that pro-business Emanuel is moving to the left on issues that are important to progressives in order to undercut the message of his progressive challengers. Cook County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia echoed that sentiment.

“For a Mayor who is fond of saying he makes tough decisions, I think we have a right to ask why he did not make an easy one. Why didn’t he support a minimum wage hike during his first year in office?” Garcia said in a statement.

“I continue to support a minimum wage increase that will bring low wage workers up to $15 an hour,” Garcia said. “As Mayor, I will pass legislation to do that my first year in office — not my last.”

Despite the concerns from the political left and right, Chicago is now on pace to have one of the highest minimum wages in the country. Seattle and San Francisco both passed gradual increases to $15 earlier this year while many states already have or are contemplating a raise to $10 an hour.