The following ran in the Chicago Tribune as part of a debate on the minimum wage discussions at the city and state levels. Action Now is a coalition member in the campaigns to raise the city minimum wage to $15 an hour and the state's to $10.65. Please consider telling the City Council to pass the ordinance for a living wage in Chicago.
There is something wrong when the American Dream is out of reach for the millions of low-wage workers whose hard work keeps our country running. A job is supposed to lift you out of poverty, not pin you to it.
Low-wage workers are increasingly older, more educated and have families. Anthony Edwards, an Action Now member, knows all too well how hard it is to put food on the table for his kids while working as a security guard. Anthony, who lives in the South Shore neighborhood, has to scrimp and save, even to the point of reusing the milk from his children's cereal for the next morning. Making $8.25 is simply not enough to survive on in Illinois.
A substantial number of our city's problems are caused by poverty. Children cannot focus on their education when they are subject to hunger and housing instability. One police officer told us he has seen single mothers turn to crime to provide for their family, and a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that pay affects crime rates.
"A 20 percent drop in (young men's) wages leads to a 12 to 18 percent increase in youth participation in crime," the study reported.
Raising the minimum wage spurs economic activity, creates jobs and pulls working families out of poverty. Decades of research and the support of over 600 economists, including seven Nobel Prize-winning economists, make a powerful statement for raising the minimum wage.
Research from The Center for Popular Democracy concluded that an increase to $15 an hour would generate $616 million in new economic activity and create 5,350 jobs within the first two years in Chicago.
A 1 1/2-year-long campaign by the Raise Chicago Coalition and the courageous strikes of fast-food workers have led us to this make-or-break moment for Chicago. Seattle's recent passage of a $15 minimum wage shows that when working people unite for change, they can win.
The Chicago City Council must listen to the people and pass the ordinance for a $15 minimum wage to improve our city's economy and restore the promise of the American Dream.