Aldermen warn Springfield not to tie their hands on minimum wage

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Aldermen who want to raise Chicago’s hourly minimum wage to $13 — or even $15 — are warning the Illinois General Assembly not to tie their hands.

In a letter to Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, 34 aldermen are sounding the alarm about an “alternative proposal floating around Springfield” that would raise the state’s minimum wage but “pre-empt” Chicago and other home-rule units from going above it.

No such language has surfaced publicly in Springfield, nor is it in the bill sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, that cleared an Illinois Senate committee this week.

But the aldermen are obviously concerned about such a proposal and want to nip it in the bud before it gains any traction.

“This is unacceptable…. We do not support any measure that would curtail our ability to represent the families in our districts,” the letter states.

“We will not allow Chicagoans, where the cost of living is the highest in the state, to get a raw deal that makes raising a family untenable in our city. We oppose this proposal and will work to defeat it.”

The aldermen note that 67 percent of Illinois voters and 87 percent in Chicago want the General Assembly to raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $10 an hour.

“There is zero ambiguity in the election results. The minimum wage is too low in Illinois, and voters want it raised. They are not asking statehouse leaders to play games,” the letter states.

“The pre-emption proposal floating around Springfield is a dirty deal designed to appease corporations that pay employees a minimum wage. It will hurt Illinois families and keep working families in poverty and dependent on government assistance.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to push an ordinance through the City Council by the end of this year raising Chicago’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2018.

The proposal is pivotal to the mayor’s efforts to shed the label of “Mayor 1 Percent” and undercut the progressive base of his two strongest challengers: Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Both Fioretti and Garcia favor a Chicago-only minimum wage of $15 an hour.

David Spielfogel, a senior advisor to the mayor, said Emanuel is “100 percent opposed to legislation that takes away Chicago’s authority to set a minimum wage” for private sector employees who work in the city.

“As he has said, every working Chicagoan deserves a paycheck that provides enough to support their family,” Spielfogel wrote in a text message to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“He looks forward to acting on the Minimum Wage Task Force’s recommendation this year.”

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