Another Major City OKs Minimum Wage Hike

CHICAGO — Hourly workers in the Windy City will see a little more in their paychecks over the next few years.

The Chicago City Council gave final approval Dec. 2 to a plan to rise the current $8.25-per-hour minimum wage to $13 by 2019.

Five aldermen voted against the measure, saying businesses would be tempted to leave the city and there could be job losses, according to The Associated Press. On the other side of the debate, supporters say the minimum wage hasn't kept up with other increasing costs and people can't survive on it.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the special meeting of the city council amid fears the Illinois Legislature could pass a measure preventing cities from setting their wage at a level higher than the state's minimum wage. State legislators could vote this week on a plan to increase the state's rate to $11 by 2017, the news agency reported.

Under Chicago's approved plan, the $8.25 rate will rise incrementally over the next five years. It will increase to $10 next year, later increasing by steps of 50 cents and $1. City officials estimate more than 400,000 Chicago workers will benefit.

Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti and Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia — both mayoral challengers to Emanuel — are pushing for an even higher rate of $15. Emanuel, who says the higher wage addresses cost-of-living increases, hopes Chicago's plan will "jolt" state lawmakers to act. He cites voters' wide support of a nonbinding November ballot measure that called for a $10 rate by January, the AP reported.

Chicago is the latest major city to boost the minimum wage. So far this year, Seattle officials approved a phased-in $15 wage. In California, San Francisco voters approved a $15 wage in November, while Oakland approved an increase to $12.25. Portland, Maine, and Louisville, Ky., are also considering increases, the news agency added.

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