CHICAGO — Mayor Richard Daley stepped up his call for a another boost in the state minimum wage as lawmakers prepare for the veto session that gets under way Tuesday in Springfield.
Like Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Daley wants the minimum wage increased to $7.50 an hour with a built-in cost-of-living increase compared to the current level of $6.50 an hour.
“A dollar-an hour increase will help improve the quality of life of the people near the bottom of the economic ladder,” said Daley, who was joined Monday at a City Hall news conference by other elected officials and union leaders.
Daley, who recently vetoed a city ordinance that would have required giant retailers to pay their workers higher wages, said he's not concerned that raising the state minimum wage will cost Illinois jobs.
Illinois Chamber of Commerce president Doug Whitley did not immediately return a call for comment Monday. Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce president Jerry Roper said the increase should happen at the federal level so Illinois is on a level playing field with other states.
Increasing the minimum wage again was one of Blagojevich's chief campaign promises and he has pledged to push for it during the veto session. The governor first signed a law increasing the state minimum wage three years ago to $6.50 an hour. The federal minimum wage has been $5.15 an hour since 1997.
State Rep. Marlow Colvin of Chicago says he will sponsor minimum wage legislation in the House, but he didn't predict an easy win, even though Blagojevich supports the measure and Democrats hold majorities in both the state House and Senate. Democratic state Sen. Jacqueline Collins of Chicago is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.
“You don't count your chickens before they hatch in Springfield,” said Colvin, a Democrat.
Blagojevich proposed raising the minimum wage after he won the March Democratic primary and then brought it up again just about a week before he won the Nov. 7 election. Daley, who has not officially said he is running for re-election, joined Blagojevich for that announcement. The city election is in February.
If a minimum wage boost passes, Illinois would join Washington, Oregon, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts as the only states with a minimum wage of at least $7.50 an hour next year.
A minimum-wage worker in Illinois currently earns $13,520 a year before taxes based on a 40-hour work week. Under the $7.50-an-hour proposal, that would rise to $15,600 a year.
Officials of the Service Employees International Union, which disagreed with Daley over the so-called “big-box ordinance” that would have required major retailers like Wal-Mart to pay their workers more, stood with Daley on Monday.