While Chicago's minimum wage is set to increase to $10 per hour in two weeks, a group of community activists gathered Tuesday morning in the Loop to say the raise is not enough.
"Families fought hard to get a higher minimum wage, and the minimum wage goes up July 1 to $10 an hour. That's not enough, that's only $3,640 more a year," said Tosha Kelly-Rushton. "That means parents can't buy more of the things that they need for their families."
Highlighting the plight of "chronically underpaid and undervalued" home and child care workers, Kelly-Rushton was one of roughly two-dozen people to call for a statewide $15 minimum wage--a yearly salary of about $31,000--during the demonstration at Daley Plaza downtown.
"Today, we're celebrating getting the minimum wage up to $10 for now, and up to $13 by 2019, but we're still pushing for the full $15 an hour that it will take to lift our families and our working families in the city out of poverty," said 43-year-old Cynthia Brown, who has worked as a child care provider on the South Side for nine years.
Illinois' minimum wage, which is $8.25 an hour, provides a full-time worker with an annual salary of $17,160 before taxes. The federal hourly minimum wage, which hasn't been adjusted since 2009, is $7.25.
In December, the Chicago City Council approved a mayor-backed plan that will raise the city's minimum wage gradually to $13 an hour--about $26,000 yearly--by 2019. On July 1, the minimum wage will increase to $10 per hour, then increase by 50 cents in both July 2016 and July 2017. Then, the rate will increase by $1 in July 2018 as well as July 2019, topping out at $13 per hour.
"The mayor and big businesses thought that $15 was too much, because they've never tried to live on minimum wage," said Brown.
During the March 18 primary election, Chicago voters overwhelmingly supported a non-binding ballot referendum to increase the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour for employees of companies with annual revenues over $50 million. The referendum appeared on the ballot in 103 city precincts, garnering support from about 87 percent of voters.
Here's more from Tuesday's demonstration:
Brown called for new revenue to pay for the wage increase, such as a millionaire tax, which would impose a 3 percent tax on all income over $1 million.
"The governor refuses to make the rich pay their fair share," she said.
Tuesday's protesters also marched to the Thompson Center to call on Gov. Bruce Rauner to halt proposed state budget cuts that would affect home and child care workers.
"We're fighting for $15 in the city of Chicago, but also at the state level," said Catherine Murrell, spokeswoman for the Raise Chicago coalition, which organized Tuesday's demonstration.
"We would love for the city minimum wage to go up, but there's currently no ordinance floating around for that," she said. "But also, a lot of child care workers who don't get paid by the hour are seeking an increase that would be the equivalent of $15 an hour from the state... The average child care worker makes less than $10 an hour."
If Rauner and state lawmakers cannot agree on a budget by July 1, the administration has said it's prepared to reduce spending on the Child Care Assistance Program, the Community Care Program, Medicaid, and various other social services that many low-wage workers rely on.
Brown, who is a licensed child care provider paid through the Child Care Assistance Program, said she is compensated between $23 and $32 per child, per day. At the end of the week, she said her hourly rate averages out to about $7.25. An unlicensed child care provider can be paid $13 per child, per day, and thus average about $4.25 hourly, according to Brown.
"I love what I do because of the children," Brown said. "But it would be very nice to get paid. The state just doesn't pay us because the money is not there, and they want to make even more cutbacks."
Kelly-Rushton, 48, who runs a state-funded home day care center on the South Side, also said she gets her funding through the state's Child Care Assistance Program.
She said she would gladly pay her workers $15 per hour if provided additional funding from the state.
"I just can't afford to pay them $15 right now because I don't even get paid that much," she said. "If I made more, my workers could make more and everybody would benefit."