Workers rally for $15 minimum wage

Demonstrators flood village hall to demand wage hike

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

"Hey, hey! Ho, ho! This poverty wage has got to go!" 

It was one of many rally chants of about 100 workers and activists who gathered outside Oak Park Village Hall Monday evening calling for an ordinance in Oak Park to set a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Activists across the country have pushed for a $15 minimum wage, and organizers Monday said Oak Park should set an example for the rest of the Chicago metropolitan area.

Anthony Kemp, a cook at KFC in Oak Park, told the crowd that gathered in front of the McDonald's across the street from village hall that his hourly wage of $8.25 "just isn't good enough."

"Now is the time to get our fair dues," Kemp said, noting that New York state, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles have instituted a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Following the rally, activists moved to village hall to ask the board of trustees to approve a proposed ordinance that would institute what they say is a living wage.

Oak Park economist Ron Baiman noted that 60 percent of the village voted in favor of increasing the minimum wage in an advisory referendum in 2008, but trustees did not support the change.

He criticized the village for handing out a $1.5 million subsidy to entice Pete's Fresh Market grocery store to open recently in the village, while the store pays some of its employees less than the $15-an-hour wage activists seek.

"This is a moral tragedy," he said.

Activists encouraged participants to join them in Chicago on Nov. 10 for a Fight for $15 rally that aims to attract 10,000 people.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Josh Vanderberg  

Posted: May 18th, 2016 8:23 PM

I think I finally get it. Many OP residents seem not to care much for business (filthy capitalists all) and would be perfectly happy if all OP business relocated to outside its borders. They might just get their wish with this policy. Glad I live within walking distance of Berwyn. Once OP implements a $15 minimum, we'll see even more cool new restaurants and bars opening in Berwyn, hoping to cater to OP residents.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: October 1st, 2015 12:22 PM

Daniel Luther from River Forest. - "Those of us in surrounding communities look forward to such a move by Oak Park. We can all use the extra sales tax revenue when more shopping and restaurant dollars flow out of Oak Park." Brian Slowiak - "The mayor /president of OP runs a business in OP that probably pays minimum wage." John Butch Murtagh ?" "Why would the new residents of the two twenty story buildings rent where the highest minimum wages rule. There are pro's and con's. The board needs to thoroughly study the issues.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: October 1st, 2015 10:53 AM

Can someone clarify, please. I thought the LWO was proposed for contractors doing business with the Village Government. How did this expand to the public sector. Re posting a prior comment I stated months ago. The mayor /president of OP runs a business in OP that probably pays minimum wage. The board may shield the mayor/president for favors due, so they will table this issue. I hope I am wrong. Pre. Bill "I feel your pain" Clinton made no real effort to address this matter. Neither did Pres. Obama the leader of his party,President and held majority in both houses and could have passed any law they wished, like Health Care, and made no real moves to help the poor of this country. They have held that position for almost 16 years.

Eric Brightfield  

Posted: October 1st, 2015 9:59 AM

This whole fight for 15 is so incredibly misinformed and ridiculous I can't believe the press takes it seriously. It's called an entry level job for a reason. The actual effect of increasing the fast food workers would be damaging to the entry level worker as a whole but apparently this " economist" Baiman doesn't get it. Oh right, I just checked he's a professor. I'm sure reality never enters the paper equations professors make. I would guarantee he has never run a business. McDonalds corporation does not pay workers. Independent franchisees that run a small business on thin margins. But just keep believing the Facebook memes that claim that cities that have raised minimum wage this high are thriving. They are not. Lettuce Entertain You would never open another restaurant in a city that did this. They already blacked out Minneapolis . Can we just acknowledge that this is not a grass roots effort but a well funded campaign by the service unions .

Bob Simpson  

Posted: October 1st, 2015 8:31 AM

One thing that is not mentioned in the article is that because of our traditional US racial caste system, people of color are disproportionately represented in the poverty wage job sector. Raising the minimum wage not only addresses evils of poverty, it also contributes to the fight against racial discrimination.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: October 1st, 2015 12:51 AM

"Increasing inequality means a weaker economy", Robert Stiglitz, Nobel laureate economist. Buying power has been declining for decades and the average minimum wage earner is unable to raise out of poverty. A hike to $15 would pump almost $50 billion in to the economy. The Chamber of Commerce and National Restaurant Association oppose these efforts and cite faulty information in support. If full-time workers earn so little and qualify for public assistance; taxpayers are on the hook. End corporate welfare.

Daniel Luther from River Forest  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 8:53 PM

Those of us in surrounding communities look forward to such a move by Oak Park. We can all use the extra sales tax revenue when more shopping and restaurant dollars flow out of Oak Park.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 8:53 PM

I also find it interesting that the locals typically promoting this movement, members of Dem Socialists of OP and other union fronts like Action Now (SEIU in disguise), are at or near retirement age. Which means their retirement income, undoubtedly higher than those earning $15/hr, let alone $8.25/hr, will go un-taxed by IL. How about the "Fight for Inter-generational Equity" and a pledge by these same folks to pay their fair share in state income taxes on their retirement income and the pension debt for services they consumed yet did not pay for? There's a fight I could get behind. Interestingly, I find that when the currency of the fight changes from Other People's Money to one's own, the fight tends to stop.

Nancy Ponton Luepke from Oak Park  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 7:53 PM

Reaganomics began capping minimum wage back in the 80s as part of trickle down economics. What it did was keep unemployment rates down contributing to the appearance of a fully employed economy while at the same time creating more and more working poor. Ever since, minimum wage has fallen farther and farther behind the rate of inflation. And, ultimately, this wage cap depresses all wages. For decades we have enjoyed lower prices for goods and services on the very backs of those working poor.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 7:35 PM

Any "tax break" our community gave to Pete's Fresh Market was pure genius. Instead of an empty dead spot we have a new wonderful store with many jobs there. We got a lot for that investment. Raising minimum wage does nothing for us but raise the cost of goods and services and chase away great stores. People wanting a hire wage listen up -- you are paid what you are worth in this world, so if you want to earn more, bring more to the table. The chicken cook at KFC cited here should see what other restaurants will pay him, if he is worth it he can go get a better wage for himself that way.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 4:47 PM

As Jeff asked (and no one in the Fight for $15 has ever addressed), when the village minimum wage is raised to $15/hr, what will the resulting impact be on other village rates? For example, the current D97 hourly rate for a Level 1 Teacher's Assistant is $16.26. When the summer lifeguards and KFC cooks are making almost as much as the TA's, will that drive up the hourly rate for TA's? Because if I'm a TA and see what their making compared to my training and education, I'd want a big increase next contract. What about other similar union contracts? Has the full impact been quantified in ways other than immeasurable platitudes?

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 4:12 PM

Last summer, four of our college age children made the minimum wage or similar. I would guess our family is typical of many two parent income Oak Park families that mainly want to see our teens get experience. The money is secondary for them. If you are going to ask for a dramatic increase in the minimum wage, please consider the significant loss of opportunity it could cause for Oak Park teens and college age students.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 4:07 PM

If we rise the minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $15 an hour, what will the people currently making $14 an hour want? Will they be satisfied with a mere dollar an hour raise? What about the people currently making $16 an hour? This is the real question and the reason that powerful groups support this. BTW, my daughter worked for a unit of government last summer and made the minimum wage. This is not just a business issue.

Tom Broderick from oak park  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 2:12 PM

As indicated in the article, we provided $1.5 million dollars in tax breaks to Pete's Fresh Market. We need to provide living wages to people who work for a living rather than to businesses looking for tax handouts.

Maggie Klein  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 1:17 PM

To Bob: "As an affluent community?" Sorry, but I don't fall into that category. We struggle to keep our heads above water here with all of the taxes.

Maggie Klein  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 1:16 PM

business are just going to hire less people and charge more for goods and services. Can you imagine what would happen if all of the life guards and camp counselors made $15 an hour? I couldn't afford to send my kids to the pool or camp.

Bob Simpson  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 12:31 PM

I am an Oak Park resident who attended the rally as a proud supporter of Fight for $15. Poverty is growing rapidly in the suburbs as low wage jobs proliferate. It's important that we reverse this race to the bottom as poverty is detrimental to individuals and to society as a whole. As an affluent community, Oak Park should be among the leaders on fighting income inequality, just as it once took the lead on fighting racial segregation. Please join our efforts.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: September 30th, 2015 11:09 AM

Dumb idea that will result in businesses avoiding setting up or staying in Oak Park in the future. Business will increase automation as it becomes cost justified by higher labor costs, which will reduce the number of jobs.

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