The Labor Tribune

Labor News From Our Region

Illinois Legislature approves $15 an hour minimum wage

By CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondant

Springfield, IL – The Illinois House of Representatives and Senate has approved a plan to raise the state minimum wage in increments to $15 in 2022.

The votes fell far short of what would be needed to overturn an expected veto of the bill, but it also puts the majority Democrats in the Legislature on record as favoring a $15 minimum. It may take the election of a Democratic governor to make it actually happen.

Under the bill, the minimum wage would go from $8.25 to $9 for 2018, $10 for 2019, $11.25 for 2020, $13 for 2021 and $15 in 2022.

The Senate originally passed the bill in April, but it did not yet include an amendment containing the minimum wage language, so the bill went back to the Senate, which voted 30-23 to concur during the last hours of the legislative session on May 31.

The House passed the bill May 30 on a 61-53 vote, generally along party lines with a few exceptions, such as Jerry Costello II (D-Red Bud), who voted against it.

No Senate Republicans voted for the bill, while two Democrats voted “no” and three did not vote.

The bill includes a tax credit to reduce its impact on employers with 50 or fewer employees.

FOR AND AGAINST

Arguments for and against the bill reflected current opinions about the minimum wage. Supporters said that by giving workers a raise, the entire economy would benefit from their added spending power.

“While corporations are enjoying record profits, workers in Illinois are suffering,” said Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare. “The House of Representatives took an historic step to reversing this course and building our economy from the bottom up instead of placing our faith in the misguided hope that prosperity will trickle down.

“Senate Bill 81 represents a major advance for Illinois and is the answer to so many of the pressing questions facing our state – growing inequality, revenue problems and the related cuts to services, population loss, and the manufactured budget crisis.”

Opponents, such as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said it would hurt workers by making them more expensive than those in neighboring states – more than double the current minimum wages in Iowa and Missouri.

The Illinois AFL-CIO thanked House and Senate Democrats for voting on behalf of working families. “Passage of the bill took some intense lobbying at the end of the session, but many Democrats stood up for a progressive approach to lifting up the middle class,” the AFL-CIO stated. “We call upon Governor Rauner to sign the bill as is, to help infuse our economy with higher-wage earners.”

TEEN WORKERS

The bill also deals with employees under 18 years old. If one of them works 650 or more hours in a calendar year, he or she would qualify for the adult minimum wage.

Otherwise, the young workers would get minimums of $8 in 2018, $8.50 in 2019, $9.25 in 2020, $10.50 in 2021 and $12 in 2022.

Dan Biss, a Senator from Evanston and Democratic candidate for governor, said he was encouraged by the House vote.

“This is a common-sense solution that would allow us to invest in our communities and invest in people,” he said. “Unfortunately, Governor Rauner continues to fail to articulate any real plans to help low-income workers in Illinois. Across the state, under the Rauner administration, communities are hurting because of a system that works for millionaires and the machine but just isn’t working for the rest of us.”

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