On July 1, Illinois workers will lose ground, and our policies will continue to undermine our business climate.
July 1 marks the second straight year that Illinois has not raised the state minimum wage. So while costs have risen on families’ necessities, many Illinois workers are less able to afford the basics. This spring, the Illinois Senate Executive Committee took testimony, including from the Shriver Center, about S.B. 1565, a bill to raise the state minimum wage to its historic value and index it to inflation. The committee voted to send the bill on to the full state Senate. But when the legislative session ended in May, S.B. 1565 still hadn’t come to a vote. This summer, it is critical we contact legislators in both the state House and the Senate, so they hear our voices and pass this important legislation in the fall.
Raising the minimum wage will help Illinois families. Over one million workers in Illinois earn at or near the minimum wage, and a third of Illinois workers earn $12 an hour or less. These workers represent all ages, demographics, and education levels. Most low-wage workers are 30 or over, and one in seven has a college degree. People who work for a living should earn enough to provide for themselves and their families. If a worker earns the minimum wage here in Illinois, $8.25 an hour, and works 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, he or she makes just $16,500. Families depend on minimum-wage workers, and there’s nowhere in Illinois a family of two with the parent working full-time, year round, can make it on just $17,000.
Raising the minimum wage will also help Illinois businesses. A recent study concluded that the proposal to raise the minimum wage in Illinois in S.B. 1565 would create 20,000 new jobs and over $2 billion in net economic activity. Right now, our businesses are suffering because of a lack of consumer spending. Two-thirds of the state economy is driven by consumer spending. Businesses can’t expand until Illinois families have more to spend. Raising the minimum wage will put money in the pockets of hard-working Illinois families, who will spend it right in their communities, helping businesses, who will in turn hire more workers. Furthermore, by helping workers cover the basic necessities, raising the minimum wage helps reduce employee turnover, increase worker productivity, and reduce workers’ reliance on taxpayer-funded public benefits.
The minimum wage in 1968, then $1.60 an hour, would be worth about $10.60 today. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, he was there advocating for economic justice for low-income workers. His work to make a more just society is as of yet incomplete, and his demand that workers be treated with dignity and fair pay rings just as true today. Raising the minimum wage is a step towards a just society, where hard work is rewarded with an income that can sustain a family.
It’s time to create a fair minimum wage that’s in line with its historic level—around $10.60 an hour—and indexed to inflation. That’s why the Shriver Center supports the Raise Illinois Campaign, and I hope you will as well.
Please sign the voter petition today, and “like” the campaign on Facebook. Then get involved, get educated, tell your story, find and contact your state legislators, and advance the fight for a fair minimum wage in Illinois.