EDITORIAL: Make good on a wage promise to working people, Mr. Mayor

SHARE EDITORIAL: Make good on a wage promise to working people, Mr. Mayor

Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2014 listens to alderman talking about raising the minimum wage. | Al Podgorski/Sun-Times file

When it comes to helping out the working class, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is falling short of a promise.

His administration can’t let city contractors or subcontractors slack off when it comes to paying employees what they should rightfully earn.

An audit by Inspector General Joe Ferguson of four city contractors hired to provide security guard and janitorial services found that the main contractors paid employees proper wages, but three of their four subcontractors did not.


The subcontractors underpaid employees anywhere from 2 cents to $3.04 an hour. That goes against the principles of labor laws and cuts into people’s ability to pay their bills or improve their standard of living.

According to the inspector general’s report, All Points Security Services, Majestic Protective Service, Inc. and Digby’s Detective and Security Services underpaid 150 employees an estimated $291,816 over three years.

Keep in mind, Ferguson looked at a small sampling of contractors and subcontractors. The results of his audit suggest there could be a much bigger problem. It’s up to the Department of Procurement Services to monitor the companies and the various city departments that employ contractors. Asked about the IG report on Friday,Cathy Kwiatkowski, public affairs director for Procurement Services, said the department took “immediate action” once notified about the problems.

Contractors who fail to cooperate, including those with connections to high-ranking city officials, should be cut off from doing business with the city. The city’s base wage ordinance allows for companies to be banned from city business for up to three years.

In 2014, by executive order, Emanuel required contractors and subcontractors to pay $13 an hour and included a wider range of employees under the Base Wage Ordinance.Emanuel also spearheaded the effort to incrementally raise the minimum wage for all Chicago workers to $13 an hour by 2019. The moves helped quiet critics who had dubbed Emanuel “Mayor 1%.”

Without enforcement, his much-touted reforms mean next to nothing.

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