Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday that he would push aldermen to raise Chicago’s minimum wage to $13 an hour no matter what Springfield lawmakers do on the issue this year.
Previously, the mayor had declined to say whether the city would move ahead with its own higher minimum wage even if state lawmakers raised the statewide minimum wage to $10 after the November election.
“Illinois should do it, and when Illinois does it, we're going to take the steps necessary to get us to the $13 here in the city of Chicago, because it's relevant to making sure work pays and making sure people can afford to live in the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said at a news conference about Chicago public high school graduation rates.
Emanuel's comments came a day after he appeared with Vice President Joseph Biden and Gov. Pat Quinn to support increasing the minimum wage, a campaign issue they hope will drive Democratic voters to the polls this fall.
Illinois voters will weigh in Nov. 4 on an advisory referendum asking if the state minimum wage should be increased from $8.25 to $10. The question is viewed as a way to build support in the legislature for a bill to raise the wage rate as well as possibly giving a boost at the polls to Quinn, who's locked in a tough re-election bid against Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.
Earlier this summer, Emanuel endorsed a city task force’s proposal to raise Chicago’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $13 an hour by 2018. Before then, Emanuel had only previously committed to acting on the minimum wage if the state failed to do so.
Task force co-chairman Ald. Will Burns, 4th, said the group suggested to the mayor that the City Council put off a vote to raise the minimum wage until after state lawmakers tackle the matter following the November election. The task force members didn’t want to deter the General Assembly from approving a statewide wage hike because Chicago had already increased its minimum wage, Burns said.
Emanuel could face a liberal challenger in the February city election. Among those talking about running for mayor are Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and 2nd Ward Ald. Robert Fioretti, who both back a $15 an hour minimum wage. Pushing through a $13 rate just before the city election could help Emanuel.
Also Tuesday, the mayor defended his government ethics record when asked about City Council watchdog Faisal Khan's jab at him this week.
In a semi-annual report, Khan criticized Emanuel for not giving the legislative inspector general's office more money, saying “the failure of the mayor's office to act has sent an alarmingly demoralizing message about where the importance of ethics oversight stands within this city.”
Rather than respond directly, Emanuel instead talked about how he thinks he has changed Chicago's political culture. He pointedly did not offer an endorsement of the beleaguered Khan.
“The idea there won't be an inspector general, whatever the size of the budget is, for the City Council, that's on the trash heap of history,” he said. “There will be an inspector general. The City Council will have that purview and oversight. And they should have a working relationship with whoever holds that office, to pursue better efficiencies and a way to root out waste, fraud and abuse. And I'm not into name calling, I'm into getting results.”