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Workers, community members demand higher minimum wage sooner

Workers, labor groups and community advocates held a rally for Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, calling on the Chicago City Council raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2021.

The noon rally was at the Thompson Center Plaza, 100 W. Randolph St. Thursday Aug. 22, 2019.
Workers, aldermen, labor groups and community advocates held a rally for Black Women’s Equal Pay Day on Thursday in the Thompson Center Plaza.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Politicians at City Hall certainly didn’t get any peace and quiet Thursday afternoon.

Unions, community members and workers rallied in the nearby Thompson Center Plaza to Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.

Black women are paid 61 cents to every dollar paid to white men, according to a National Women’s Law Center study. That’s a bigger wage gap than for white women.

Rima Coleman, 45, a dietary worker at Mount Sinai Hospital, spoke at the rally for “more money” and “respect,” but also to make politicians “hear from the people.”

“It’s expensive to be a black woman,” Coleman said. “And it’s expensive to be poor — these are one and the same.”

Coleman and others called for Chicago’s minimum wage to increase to $15 per hour by 2021. The state’s minimum wage will be $15 an hour beginning 2025 under the law signed in July by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Ald. Sophia King (4th) introduced an ordinance in June to boost Chicago’s minimum wage to $15 by 2021 and include more worker groups, such as tipped workers. King and 37 other aldermen have signed onto the ordinance.

“We want you to know that your local elected officials are behind you,” Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) told the crowd.

49th Ward alderman Maria Hadden, with microphone, was among those attending a rally in August pushing for an increase in the city’s minimum wage.
Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), with microphone, spoke to the crowd Thursday at a rally for Black Women’s Equal Pay Day in Thompson Center Plaza.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2021 is a “top priority” for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, her office told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The administration is working with advocates to advance a legislative strategy to pass the $15 minimum wage in the coming months,” the mayor’s office said.

Chicago’s minimum wage rose to $13 an hour on July 1.

Tyree Johnson, 51, said he “struggles to get by” on what he earns at McDonald’s, where he’s worked for 27 years.

“A $2 raise may not seem like a lot for some, but it means a lot for workers like me,” Johnson said, who works a second job.

Trina Cobb, 49, a mother of four, said, “I shouldn’t have to make the decision between paying utilities or buying my children clothes and shoes.”

For Veronica Rodriguez, 19, the hardships of supporting the family on a minimum wage began early. Three summers ago, she worked to support herself and her family of seven while making $8.25 an hour.

“The cycle of survival — instead of living — continues in my generation,” Rodriguez said.