Chicago News

Quinn, Obama both call for minimum-wage increase in annual addresses

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Some workers are cheering President Barack Obama's call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

Some workers are cheering President Barack Obama's call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

It's also a big political issue in Illinois. But critics say an increase could hurt some small-business owners.

Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. For a worker supporting a family of two, that falls just below the poverty level. On Wednesday, the president set out to highlight his initiatives to fight income disparity.. And the governor is also calling for raising the minimum wage.

President Obama took his state of the union message directly to American workers Wednesday, stopping at a suburban Maryland Costco to push for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The big-box store pays its entry-level workers $11.50 an hour, more than $4 above the current wage.

it's a message echoed by Governor Pat Quinn in his State of the State address Wednesday in Springfield. Illinois already exceeds the federal minimum wage by a dollar. It's $8.25 an hour. Quinn wants to raise it to $10 an hour.

Paying close attention is Kenya Baker. The single mother of three works full time as a certified nursing assistant and supports her family on $9.25 an hour. She says a wage increase could be a big financial boost.

"It would probably be, like, another $63 every two weeks on my check, which would be another bill that we can pay," she said.

Supporters say raising the minimum wage could mean workers would have more money to spend, which would help the economy. Opponents say it would dampen hiring or even spark layoffs. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce says while some of their members would like to pay higher wages, it would mean hardship for their businesses.

"It's the small and medium-size employers who are creating the jobs in our economy. It's always been that way, it will continue to be that way. You really can't ask them to do the same thing you would ask of a Costco," said Theresa Mintle, CCC.

The president signed an executive order lifting the minimum wage for workers with new federal contracts to $10.10 an hour. He urged Congress to do the same for Americans nationwide.

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