Recently, the Raise Chicago Coalition and Chicago’s Aldermen have introduced an ordinance to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour. Studies have shown that this ordinance will generate more than $600 million within Chicago’s economy and will create roughly 5,350 jobs in the city. With Seattle just accomplishing this goal, several other cities are taking up the cause, including Chicago. Mayor Emanuel’s task force on raising the minimum wage has set a total of 5 public hearings in different parts of the city. Action Now members and workers were committed speaking out at the hearings to let the Mayor and his commission know that anything less than $15 is an insult to the 87% of voters who, in March, voted overwhelmingly for a $15 minimum wage in Chicago!
The first public hearing took place on last Monday, June 9th, 2014, and was held at Kennedy King College at 9:00 pm. The first meeting turned out to be a powerful debate and examined all topics, not just the fight for minimum wage. The discussion ranged from talking about poverty to talking about how incumbent politicians in Chicago’s South Side have sold out the people. At the public hearing, an Action Now speaker mentioned that “we are in the twenty first century and our salary should reflect that”. Another Chicagoan named Sherry West explained that the only way to “eliminate crime is to eliminate poverty”.
The second hearing took place on June 12th at Malcolm X College in Chicago’s West Side. Similar to the first public hearing, the second meeting had a crowd and speakers that were fired up. All speakers brought up several stories and facts that expressed the urgent need to raise the minimum wage. Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago and Fight for Fifteen member Nancy Salgado mentioned that “I have dreams, I want my kids to go to college” and “I'm tired of hearing about all the shootings going around our communities because we cannot keep our wages up”. The crowd applauded in agreement and solidarity.
The next public hearing is scheduled to take place at Truman College on June 19th at 7:00 pm. After the five public hearings have been done, Mayor Emanuel has instructed the Minimum Wage Working Group to make a recommendation on Chicago’s minimum wage ordinance by early July. Action Now has seen that the Mayor's commissions and public hearings are not a truly democratic process. We saw with the fight against school closings that despite hundreds of hearings where the community spoke out passionately against school closings, the Mayor went through with them anyway. We believe that the minimum wage commission is unnecessary and is just being used to undercut democracy. The people of Chicago voted for a $15 minimum wage with 87% citywide support and Aldermen need to take action NOW to pass the Raise Chicago ordinance for a $15 minimum wage!