When I moved from Decatur to Chicago, in 1995, I went from paying $325 for a two-bedroom house with a carport to paying $325 for a studio apartment in Uptown. Illinois might be cheap livin', but Chicago ain't.
Does Bill Brady get that? Brady, a lifelong downstater, has been complaining that dollar-store checkout clerks and motel chambermaids are overpaid. The state’s minimum wage is set to rise to $8.25 an hour on Thursday. Brady wants to bust it down to the federal level of $7.25. That may be a subsistence wage in Jonesboro, but it won’t pay for a bedsitter in Chicago.
“Illinois’ minimum wage is higher than our border states,” Brady spokeswoman Patty Schuh said. “It’s higher than the federal level and so is our unemployment. Bill cares deeply about people earning a wage that they can live on. He also cares deeply about people getting a job opportunity.”
Basically: he wants jobs to help businesses, but not people? Brady championed Wal-Mart in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood -- a deal only happened because the retailer agreed to pay 50 cents an hour more than the minimum wage -- but then poo-poo'd the idea of raising workers' minimum earnings.
You can argue that the marketplace forced Walmart to pay more in Chicago than it does Downstate. But if Illinois’ minimum wage were $7.25 an hour, do you think Walmart would have gone up a buck fifty? Hell, no. One size may not fit all in Illinois, but there has to be a bottom line that protects the workers most in need of a good wage -- those living in the costliest part of the state.
If you’re working at a Burger King in Decatur, and you’re living like a lord on $8.25 an hour -- you’ve got your own apartment, you’ve been to the dentist in the last two years -- just consider it a gift from Chicago.