Chicago Voters Overwhelmingly Support $15 Minimum Wage In Primary Ballot Question

03/19/2014 05:18 pm ET | Updated Mar 19, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Activists pushing for a $15 minimum wage in Chicago are celebrating a big -- if largely symbolic -- win after voters in Tuesday's primary election voted by a wide margin in support of a pay hike for the city's workers.

About 87 percent of Chicago voters who considered the question said the city's minimum wage should be increased to $15 an hour, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The results are promising for those who back a wage boost, but come with a number of caveats. First, the non-binding advisory referendum was only included on the ballot in about 5 percent of the city's precincts in the low turnout primary. Second, the referendum only applies to larger corporations and businesses that pull in at least $50 million in gross revenue in a year, leaving smaller employers out of the equation.

Still, wage hike advocates say the results should send a strong message to lawmakers.

"Chicagoans voted their values and sent a clear message that workers deserve a fair and decent wage," Katelyn Johnson, executive director of the Action Now organization, part of the Raise Chicago coalition, told DNAinfo Chicago. "This referendum speaks volumes."

Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd), one city council member who backs the referendum, agreed, telling the Chicago Reporter the results are "an important indication of where this city is going."

Johnson added that she expects wage hike legislation will be forthcoming in both the city council and Illinois General Assembly.

The results come as both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn have announced support for a minimum wage boost, though neither of the proposals they back come anywhere near the $15 figure proposed in the referendum.

Gov. Quinn is pushing for a statewide $10 minimum wage, up $1.75 from the current $8.25, and partnered with actor Martin Sheen in downtown Chicago last week to rally support for a higher wage. Quinn also made his minimum wage push the central focus of his first reelection television ad that criticized Republican candidate Bruce Rauner on Tuesday night.

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