On Nov. 19, Democrat legislative leaders pushed a measure through the Senate Executive Committee that would increase the state’s minimum wage from the current $8.25 per hour to $10 per hour on July 1, 2015.
The bill’s sponsor indicates she wants the legislation to be approved before the General Assembly before Jan. 1. Senate Bill 68 was amended to not only increase the minimum wage in Illinois to $10 per hour on July 1, but to incrementally increase Illinois’ minimum wage by an additional fifty cents over the next two years, bringing the minimum wage to $11 per hour by July 1, 2017.
Opponents of a minimum-wage increase underscore that increasing the minimum wage will hurt Illinois employers, resulting in layoffs and increased prices on goods and services. However, Gov. Pat Quinn has long supported passage of an increase, and recently stated a minimum-wage hike is his top priority before leaving office in January.
While Governor-elect Bruce Rauner has also indicated he would support a minimum-wage increase, he has stressed that would only be if it was coupled with business-friendly concessions, including tort reform, tax reforms and workers’ compensation reforms. Rauner points out that these initiatives would help employers create more jobs, which will help them absorb the cost of the minimum-wage increase.
Republicans on the Executive Committee said a discussion on the minimum-wage increase is one that should be held when the new legislature and Illinois’ new governor have been sworn into office—not during the fall veto session, or a possible lame-duck session in January.
The Senate Executive Committee also advanced legislation (HB 5485) that would add staffing levels, also known as “manning,” to the list of mandatory subjects of collective bargaining for firefighters. If an agreement cannot be reached, the local government and the collective bargaining unit will be subject to binding arbitration.
Opponents stressed that if manning is imposed on a city, and that city gets into a budget squeeze, it could not reduce minimum staffing without the union's agreement. As a result, the bill could force local governments to raise property taxes to pay for increased staffing levels. Firefighters note that manning is already contained in many municipal labor agreements across the State (including Chicago) and that this bill would not require, only continue to allow, an arbitrator to award manning during arbitration. Arbitrators can still choose not to award a request to insert manning into a union contract.
Many firefighters argue that understaffing has jeopardized public safety, and the safety of the firefighters, due to municipal budget troubles, which drives the need for the legislation.
Also on Nov. 19, House Bill 5485 was sent to the Senate for consideration and passed by a 42-11-4 vote after a long debate.