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CHICAGO -- This city might become the first in the nation to require "big box" retailers like Wal-Mart or Home Depot to pay employees a "living wage" of at least $10 an hour plus $3 an hour in benefits.
According to local reports, thus far, 33 of 50 city council members have signed on to the proposed ordinance, which would affect only stores that have at least 75,000-square-feet and are operated by companies with at least $1 billion in annual sales, thus allowing smaller retailers to continue with the state minimum wage of $6.50 an hour.
An executive with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association said the state would block such an ordinance because it would discriminate against some businesses. Proponents of the proposal contend the measure would withstand challenges in view of previous court rulings that allowed distinctions to be made among industries if there was a rational basis for doing so.
If the proposal in Chicago passes, it could mean wage increases for more than 9,000 of the 16,000 or so workers at about 35 big-box stores in the city, according to a study released last year by the Center for Urban Economic Development of the University of Illinois at Chicago.