Chicago aldermen propose hiking minimum wage to $15 an hour

CHICAGO Wed May 28, 2014 4:21pm EDT

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - A group of Chicago aldermen on Wednesday introduced a proposal to boost the minimum wage in the nation's third-largest city to $15 an hour, joining officials in other major U.S. cities who also are considering a hike.

The group proposing the wage increase is separate from a panel Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel named last week among aldermen, labor and business leaders to provide recommendations for raising the minimum wage.

Alderman Ricardo Munoz said 12 to 15 of the 50 council members support the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and he expected more to join.

The increase would match the minimum pay that fast-food workers have sought during national protests and would help Chicago's economy, Munoz said.

"Study after study demonstrates that when you put money into the pockets of consumers, they spend it," Munoz said. "They don't hoard it in their mattresses."

Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday approved an advisory referendum for the November ballot that asks whether the state's minimum wage should be raised to $10 an hour from $8.25. Governor Pat Quinn said he would sign the bill.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan earlier in May to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it the first major U.S. city to commit to such a high base level of pay. The proposal awaits approval by the city council.

New York and San Diego also are considering such raises.

Minimum wage increases have been considered in 38 states this year in a national push by Democrats. President Barack Obama urged Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25, but did not get support from the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

In a bipartisan vote on Tuesday, Michigan approved raising the minimum wage to $9.25 per hour by 2018. [ID:nL1N0OE04Q].

Darlene Pruitt, a Chicago home healthcare worker who makes $10.65 an hour and supports the $15 proposal, said before the city council meeting that she sometimes goes to the church food pantry for help.

"I have to choose between food and medication," she said.

Emanuel's panel must make a report within 45 days. The panel includes the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, which opposes an increase.

"We think it puts us at a competitive disadvantage," Chamber Chief Executive Theresa Mintle said.

(Editing by David Bailey, Bernadette Baum and Eric Walsh)

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