By Alejandra Cancino
A bill that would increase Illinois’ minimum wage by 65 cents this summer is slowly gathering support from Democrat lawmakers from Chicago.
Sen. William Delgado and Sen. Rickey Hendon added their names Tuesday to a growing list of supporters of Senate Bill 1565, which was introduced earlier this month.
The bill would increase the minimum wage by 50 cents, plus the rate of inflation every year, until it is restored to its “historic level” above $10 per hour.
To calculate the historic level, the bill uses 1968 as base year to calculate what today’s minimum wage should be. That year, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour, enough to support a family of three above the poverty level line, said Madeline Talbott, lead organizer of the community group Action Now, which drafted the bill.
Using that rate, the minimum wage in 2010 dollars would be $10.03 per hour. Talbott said it would take about four years for the minimum wage to reach the historic level. After that, it would just rise with the rate of inflation.
Critics say there is no such thing as a “historic level” because the labor market today is not the way it was more than 40 years ago. Most worrisome, they say that raising the minimum wage would eliminate jobs and keep workers from entering the labor market.
“It makes hiring people with less experience more expensive,” said Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute, a think-tank that focuses on entry-level employment issues.
Unfortunately, Saltsman said, raising the minimum wage has an adversary effect on workers, as employers find ways to automate their business or ask their current workers to take on more work.
The bill would also repeal sections of the Minimum Wage Law that allow employers to pay teenagers and workers who earn tips less than the minimum wage.
That portion of the bill, Saltsman said, would further increase the unemployment rate among teenagers, which is already at a record high of 27.6 percent.
“We know what will happen, they are not going to get hired,” Saltsman said.
Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, who introduced the bill, said companies would always find reasons not to increase the minimum wage, even when they are making large profits.
“It’s important to me that people get paid the proper wage for the work that they do,” Lightford said.