Friday, June 14, 2019

It’s an urban/rural race to the top of the pay scale for minimum-wage workers

I was amused to learn that the City Council will likely be considering a measure that would boost the minimum wage for workers at Chicago-based companies.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed off on $15 by 2025; will we see demand for $15 by 2021?
The measure in question by 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King wants to see the minimum wage – currently $13 an hour – rise up to $15 by the year 2021.

WHAT’S THE BIG deal? Illinois law already calls for increases in the minimum wage, with the General Assembly just this year passing a bill that boosts the minimum pay to that $15 hourly rate by the year 2025.

If the city does nothing, that $15 rate eventually will be achieved. It will apply to employees of Chicago-based companies just as much as those of companies based elsewhere in the state.

Yet King argues that the city needs to have a higher pay scale, so to speak, than other parts of Illinois, because the city has a higher cost of living than other parts of the state.

It’s important, King argues, that Chicago reach the $15 hourly rate for adults stuck working in menial jobs before everyone else in the state. Thereby making it a race to the top of the scale between those working in Chicago and those working elsewhere – which usually is more a matter of where one happens to live.

NOW I’LL ADMIT that in some aspects, urban life carries a higher price tag.

Although I also know of people who insist that suburban life is more expensive. Often these are the people who live their lives in parts of the city that those with more significant incomes can choose to avoid living in.

They say that a move to the suburbs would wind up being too costly.

More often than not, they’re likely to be the individuals who most likely are forced to eke out an existence on an income based on a minimum-wage job – often doing some sort of scut-work that those of us with opportunities can avoid having to do.
KING: Pushing for minimum wage raise for Chgo?

SO IS IT really the case that a Chicago worker needs a higher minimum-wage pay rate than someone elsewhere in Illinois? It doesn’t really matter how low a cost-of-living rate is in a community.

Truth be told, a minimum wage isn’t going to stretch that far. Even at a $15 hourly rate, one is not going to “live like a king” if they’re stuck laboring at a job that many people would associate with a teenager who’s never had a job before in their lives.

Who, by the way, would not be impacted by these increases in minimum-wage rates. Companies will still be able to pay those workers less -- $4.25 an hour, if under 20.

Which makes me wonder if an increase in the minimum wage rate (an issue that is popular amongst a certain type of person with activist mentality) will only result in more teenagers getting hired.

WE’LL GO BACK to walking into a fast-food franchise and seeing pimply-faced teens trying to earn spending money, rather than a middle-aged person whose job skills are such that they have few other options in life.

I do realize labor is labor. A job is a job – particularly since there have been points in my own work life that I did jobs whose only real purpose was to bring in a paycheck, no matter how minimal. There was nothing noble about the work – other than it brought in an honest income that enabled some bills to be paid.
Will minimum wage fight shift to City Hall?
But I wonder what happens come the mid-2020s when Illinois’ minimum wage rate reaches $15 – some four years after Chicago. Will city-based workers wind up demanding yet another raise in their rates?

Will we become too accustomed to city-based people in menial jobs having to be paid just a tad extra than those elsewhere doing identical work, leading to the urban-rural brawl of the future!


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