Online Staff Report
CHICAGO — The Raise Illinois coalition launched a series of press events across the state Nov. 18 to call on lawmakers to immediately pass legislation during this year’s veto session to raise the minimum wage for working families.
Raise Illinois said voters delivered an overwhelming mandate during this election with 67 percent in support for increasing the minimum wage by Jan. 1, 2015, and that the state legislature must deliver real results for working families in Illinois.
Support for the $10 minimum wage was bipartisan, with the minimum wage ballot question passing in almost all legislative districts, including most Republican legislative districts.
The Raise Illinois ballot referendum passed with 65 percent support in the populous Republican-leaning suburban counties of DuPage, Lake and Will; it also passed by wide margins in places like rural Wabash County, which voted 73 percent for Bruce Rauner.
Raise Illinois showcased a map that demonstrated just how deep the support for the minimum wage issue was in this election where 83 of the state’s 102 counties approved the measure.
A diverse set of Raise Illinois coalition partners, which included low-wage workers and families, faith, civic, community and small business leaders joined lawmakers at press events and rallies across the state, including Chicago and surrounding suburbs, as well as Rockford, Peoria, Quad Cities and Metro East. The week of action is culminating in a large rally in Springfield Thursday, Nov. 20, at the State Capitol to put pressure on the legislature to pass the bill to increase the minimum wage.
In Chicago, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stood with Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, and state lawmakers and community advocates at the Shriver Center to urge the legislature not to delay in lifting the minimum wage for low-income families.
At the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockford, Claire McIntyre from the League of Women Voters spoke at a press event and said, “We have a historic opportunity to vote to raise the minimum wage for working families, which will benefit our communities, small businesses and our local economy.”
In Peoria, Don Jackson, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, pointed to the urgency for communities of color to make better wages, spoke about the crisis of income inequality throughout Illinois, and reiterated that working families simply cannot survive on $8.25 per hour.
In the Quad Cities, Mike Malmstrom, director of “Bridge the Gap: Stand Down for Homeless Veterans,” stood with State Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, and said it was urgent that lawmakers act as the weather turns worse for low-wage families and veterans who can barely afford their heat and basic necessities.
In East St. Louis, Percy Dace from the Leslie Bates Neighborhood House, a social service agency, stood with the mayor, Alvin Parks, and a contingent of low-wage workers who called the minimum wage issue “settled” based on the results from the referendum and said that state lawmakers need to do their jobs by going to work for the families in Illinois.
“The time is now for the state legislature to go to work to pass a minimum wage increase during this upcoming veto session — working families simply cannot wait any longer,” Dace said. “No one can survive, much less support a family, making only $8.25 an hour.”
Raise Illinois highlighted a recent study from the Economic Policy Institute and Heartland Alliance about who would benefit from raising the minimum wage in Illinois. The study found that more than one in five workers in Illinois — about 1.1 million workers in the state — would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour. It would also put more than $1.5 billion in the pockets of working families to spend on necessities and support small businesses.
That’s why small business owners are championing a raise to the state’s minimum wage. Dmitri Syrkin-Nikolau, founder and CEO of Dimo’s Pizza in Chicago, said: “As a small business owner, I know that running a business by keeping employees in poverty hurts economic growth as a whole. We need lawmakers to understand the value of a healthy employer-employee relationship and pass legislation like raising the minimum wage that ensures that this relationship flourishes.”
Robert Olson, owner of Olson & Associates in Springfield, Illinois, added: “Workers who make a part-time wage while working full-time are not able to support their families or be a good customer base for local businesses in their neighborhoods, towns or cities. Raising the minimum wage is a common-sense, first-step solution to building a healthy local economy.”
Raise Illinois said this week’s series of press events and rallies is meant to remind state lawmakers there is no reason to delay in raising the minimum wage for working families and also make sure lawmakers are responsive to the will of the voters and the democratic process.
Raise Illinois is an advocacy campaign dedicated to raising the minimum wage to support low-wage workers, families and communities.
Posted Nov. 18, 2014