Illinois workers are falling farther and farther behind because of stagnant wages. For years, Action Now has been part of a coalition that has sought a living wage for Illinois. This has meant working with groups across the state who have been concerned about the rising inequality here that has accompanied fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis. We see the Fight for $15 as the answer. And that's why we believe that Senate Bill 2, currently being considered as part of the so-called "grand bargain" package does not honor our principles and is, in fact, a significant step back, as written.
Locking in a wage floor of $11 by 2020 does not go far enough in dealing with the problem of inequality. Currently, more than 41 percent of all workers in Illinois earn less than $15 per hour. Setting that as the standard for 2020 is a reasonable and phased-in solution. Across the country, state and local governments have felt the same. This could be our moment.
SB 2 also pre-empts places like Cook County and the City of Chicago from raising wages on their own. Given the significantly higher costs of food, transportation and housing in these communities, it is a major step back to take away their local government's ability to respond to the needs of their workers. And the idea of "pre-emption" and erosion of home rule also brings with it the types of insult to racial justice that are so abundantly evident in places like Flint, Mich.
"The fact of the matter is that Illinois is overdue for a reasonable wage of at least $15 per hour. There are too many working families struggling to get by to continue to compromise on doing what is fair and what is right", said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now
Simply put, we can't support SB 2 as it's written. If this is supposed to be the "progressive" part of the "grand bargain," it needs to do a lot better. A $15 wage floor and eliminating pre-emption is the place to start.
Action Now is a part of a coalition of organizations including Fight for $15, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, fighting for working families and a minimum $15 per hour living wage.