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Activists’ study: Mag Mile wage hike would aid Chicago

Wed, Jan 2, 2013

Stand Up! Chicago and Action Now released their study December 4 that said raising the wages of Michigan Avenue retailers and restaurant workers to $15 an hour would generate $179 million in the workers’ communities and in turn create a “multiplier effect that would spur job creation and alleviate socioeconomic problems associated with extreme inequality.”

Both groups are committed to raising the minimum wage. Action Now is a coalition of community groups active against foreclosures and vacant buildings; Stand Up! Chicago has been vocal since the recession in 2008 about what it terms “defending Chicago against wealthy corporations.”

According to the executive summary, “since the Great Recession, the disappearance of middle class jobs has accelerated and the bulk of new jobs created have been low-wage jobs. Low-wage jobs comprised 21 percent of jobs lost but 58 percent of those gained since the recovery.”

The study said that roughly 57 percent of all Chicago households depend on income from low-wage jobs, but the minimum wage of $8.25 an hour has not kept pace with the the cost of living. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for a single parent with one child in Chicago is $17.24 (the amount they would need to live without public housing, food stamps, Medicaid or child care). The report contends that for every 25 low-wage workers who brought home $15 an hour, one full-time job would be created in their communities.

The report, which analyzed financial data from the 50 largest public retail and restaurant employers in downtown Chicago, said that 93 percent of wage growth has gone to the top one percent of earners. “CEOs for the downtown stores average $8.3 million annual compensation, an hourly rate of $4,011.”

Authors of the report were Ron Baiman, director of budget and policy analysis for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and Stand Up! Chicago Policy Analyst Elizabeth Parisian.

A bill now before the Illinois Senate would raise the minimum wage to $10.55 an hour, highest in the US; the state’s current minimum wage is third highest. State Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) told the Reeder Report that he didn’t think there were votes to pass the bill. Jacobs cited his own Quad-Cities community, just across the Mississippi River from Iowa, where the minimum wage is $7.25. “Raising it to $10.55 would put our businesses at a real disadvantage,” he said.

Written by Suzanne Hanney,
From prepared materials

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