City of Chicago $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Referendum (March 2014)

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A City of Chicago $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Advisory Referendum ballot question was on the March 18, 2014 election ballot for voters in 103 precincts of the city of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, where it was overwhelmingly approved. In addition to an overall approval rate of over 85 percent, the measure was approved in each of the 103 precincts in which votes were cast on the question.[1]

This Chicago ballot measure concerned a minimum wage of $15 per hour, the same minimum wage that was recently approved by the city of SeaTac in Washington. The Chicago referendum, however, was only an advisory measure, with no binding power.[2]

The coalition of activist groups called the Raise Chicago Coalition, which included Action Now, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, the Grassroots Collaborative, ONE Northside and SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, announced that it had collected enough signatures to qualify the non-binding referendum for the city's March ballot in 103 precincts.[2]

The measure was designed to show whether the voters approved of an ordinance requiring companies with an annual gross revenue of over $50 million to pay employees a minimum of $15 per hour. In March 2014, the state minimum wage was $8.25 per hour. This measure only appeared in 103 precincts of the city, as an adequate number signatures were collected in these precincts but not in the other 1,967.[2]

Election results

Chicago Minimum Wage Question
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 8,827 86.68%
No1,35713.32%
Election results from Chicago elections office

Responses

Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now said, “The voters spoke loud and clear on Election Day – we want solutions to address the lack of economic opportunity in our city. And we want to see Chicago’s workers get the fair and decent wages that they’ve earned. It’s time for our aldermen to listen to their constituents and enact a city ordinance that gives Chicago workers a raise and holds corporations accountable.”[3]

Text of measure

Ballot question

Shall the city of Chicago require a minimum wage of $15 per hour for employees of companies that perform work within the city of Chicago where the employing company had annual gross revenues in excess of $50 million in the last tax year?[4][5]

Support

Supporters

Raise Chicago Coalition was the main supporter of this measure. The coalition included:

  • Action Now
  • Brighton Park Neighborhood Council
  • the Grassroots Collaborative
  • ONE Northside
  • SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless also supported the measure.

Arguments in favor

Katelyn Johnson, executive director of Action Now, said, “This is something that’s a long time overdue. Increasingly, the minimum wage is not enough for people to survive on. Coming off of victory in several different cities, we recognize the opportunity municipalities have to do right by their lowest wage workers and challenge companies that make billions and billions of dollars off the backs of poverty wages. We’re excited to give the voters in these precincts in March a chance to show that, yes, in fact Chicago does deserve a raise."[2]

Opposition

Some officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn, urged lawmakers to approve small minimum wage increases, instead of making the large jump to $15 per hour.[4]

Arguments against

Opponents of a $15 per hour minimum wage in Chicago were concerned that an increase of that size could push businesses out of Chicago and out of Illinois.[4]

Reports and analyses

National Employment Law Project

Raise Chicago released a study by the National Employement Law Project (NELP) on the low-wage workers in Chicago.[6] The study found that, in Chicago,:[3]

  • 38% of all workers earn less than $15 per hour
  • About half of these workers - 19.7% of all employees - are employed by large corporations
  • This 19.7% - 263,000 workers - would see a raise by the proposed $15 per hour minimum wage for large companies
  • 48% of all working single parents earn less than $15 per hour
  • 41% of female workers earn less than $15 per hour
  • 35% of male workers earn less than $15 per hour
  • Over 61% of Hispanic workers earn less than $15 per hour
  • Over 45% of black workers earn less than %15 per hour
  • Under 25% of white non-Hispanic workers earn less than $15 per hour
  • 71.5% of workers earning less than $15 per hour work full time
  • 96% of workers earning less than $15 per hour are over 20 years old
  • 35% of workers earning less than $15 per hour are parents

Responses

Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now, said, “This study proves what we have known for some time: that working families urgently need a fair and decent wage of $15 an hour, major corporations can absolutely afford it, and our communities will benefit from it."[3]

Similar measures

Local

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Francisco Minimum Wage Act of 2014 Initiative (November 2014)
Approveda Philadelphia Minimum Wage Ordinance, Proposition 1 (May 2014)
Approveda City of Chicago $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Referendum (March 2014)
Approveda SeaTac "Good Jobs Initiative", Proposition 1 (November 2013)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Richmond Minimum Wage Increase Ballot Question (November 2014)

Statewide


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