The Raise Chicago Coalition celebrated a major victory on Tuesday as the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance significantly increasing the minimum wage to $13 for Chicago workers! Raise Chicago, a coalition of organizations and progressive elected officials, formed in 2013 to fight for an increase in the minimum wage in Chicago.
“This victory was hard fought, and it is a testament to the value of our coalition’s advocacy and work to deliver real results for working families,” said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now. “This is a win for, and by, the working families of this great city who came together and demanded change.”
Chicago is now the largest city in the country to raise its minimum wage and the only city to include domestic workers in its minimum wage legislation. None of this would have happened without the continuous hard work and determination of Action Now and the Raise Chicago coalition to lift up the $15 number and the need to include ALL workers. We refused to let up the fight or compromise our ideals and that is why we won such a strong ordinance for the workers of Chicago!
History of Victory:
The Raise Chicago campaign grew out of Action Now’s low wage worker organizing that developed into the Fight For $15 movement. Retail and fast food workers' Fight For $15 was changing the national conversation about wages and Action Now believed it was time to gain concrete legislative gains for the workers and community members rallying, marching and striking for better wages and the right to form a union.
We began by bringing together other community and labor organizations that shared our goals and formed the Raise Chicago coalition. The first step for the coalition was to get a question on the March 2014 primary ballot asking voters if they supported a $15 minimum wage. We knocked on doors and got thousands of petitions signed to get the question on the ballot. By the time of the March 2014 primary, 20 Chicago wards and 103 precincts were voting on the advisory referendum representing the diversity and strength of the Raise Chicago coalition.
We then mobilized to get out the vote for the March 2014 election. On Election Day voters supported the proposal with 87 percent in favor in the 103 Chicago precincts where it was on the ballot. It drew more than 85 percent support in over half of those precincts.
After the overwhelming support of voters in the election, Action Now and the Raise Chicago coalition began working with the Progressive Caucus of Aldermen in Chicago’s City Council to introduce an ordinance that would establish a $15 minimum wage in Chicago.
On the 28th of May, 2014, the Raise Chicago Coalition linked up with Chicago Aldermen for a press conference to announce the introduction of an ordinance that would establish a $15 minimum wage in the city of Chicago. Companies with more than $50 million in annual revenue would be required to pay $12.50 an hour within 90 days of passage and $15 an hour within a year. Small- and medium-sized companies would have four years to get to $15 an hour. After that, Chicago’s minimum wage would rise annually to match the inflation rate.
The Mayor’s working group also held public town hall meetings to hear what “the people” of Chicago wanted the minimum wage to be. We turned out large numbers of workers, community members and business owners to those events to make sure the working group heard loud and clear that Chicagoans wanted $15.
The Minimum Wage Working group ended up recommending a $13 minimum wage increase, which we are sure would not have been possible without the pressure for $15 by Raise Chicago and the Fight For $15. The Mayor’s original plan, before the Raise Chicago campaign, was to raise the minimum wage $1 to $9.25!
Raise Chicago decided to keep up the public pressure for a better ordinance to counteract the lobbying efforts of the Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Restaurant and Retail Associations. We knew that the Mayor and Aldermen would weaken the bill if they got the chance, so we had to keep the public aware of every step of the campaign.
We achieved this through earned media events that targeted Aldermen who had the $15 minimum wage referendum pass in their ward, but had not yet signed on in support of our ordinance. We held rallies at their offices and a bus tour that went to multiple Aldermen’s offices as well as to a McDonald’s to connect politicians’ refusal to support raising the minimum wage as a reflection of their campaign contributions from low wage employers.
As a result of our campaign, Mayor Emanuel passed a minimum wage ordinance through City Council that would establish a $13 minimum wage over the course of five years AND it would INCLUDE domestic workers!
Thus Chicago became the largest city in the country to raise its minimum wage and the only city to include domestic workers in its minimum wage legislation. None of this would have happened without the continuous hard work and determination of Action Now and the Raise Chicago coalition to lift up the $15 number and the need to include ALL workers. We refused to let up the fight or compromise our ideals and that is why we won such a strong ordinance for the workers of Chicago!