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Minimum wage should be a living wage

lightford-min-cowThe Senate heard testimony last week on an issue with great potential impact on the state's economy: raising the minimum wage. Illinois voters told lawmakers last November by more than a two to one margin, 68 percent to 32 percent, that they favor raising the minimum wage. The Senate quickly responded, passing legislation sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) to step the minimum wage up to $11. However, that legislation has not yet made it to the governor’s desk and Senate Democrats have made it a key part of their Middle Class Agenda.

Gloria Davis, a woman who works full-time as a temp in a meat packing house, told senators how her earnings are too low for her to afford an apartment: she has lived in shelters and takes a bus to work, sometimes missing offered shifts that start before the buses begin running in the morning. Mark Forinash, owner of Cafe Moxo in Springfield, described his engaged, committed workforce who raise the quality of the restaurant's service and increase their profits with an average wage of more than $13.00 an hour. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Tim Drea expressed the union's support for an increase, and two University of Illinois professors cited economic benefits as low-income workers with more income spend it on consumer goods.

Backing up their testimony is a study from Business for a Fair Minimum Wage and the American Sustainable Business Council that found 61 percent of small business employers support increasing the federal minimum wage in three stages over two and a half years and then adjusting it annually to keep pace with the cost of living.

Read the study here: Small Business Owners Favor Raising Federal Minimum Wage. In spite of these facts, opponents representing the business community complained it would hurt their businesses and eat into their profits.

 

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