Minimum wage increase: a positive or negative for jobs? - Dallas News |

Minimum wage increase: a positive or negative for jobs?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to raise Chicago's minimum wage would mean bigger pay checks for thousands of Chicagoans. But critics complain it could end up costing some workers their jobs, especially if they're young or low-skilled.

Douglas Hunter said that after working four years at a McDonald's fast-food restaurant on Chicago Avenue, the $9.25 an hour he earns is not enough for his family. Neither, he said, is Mayor Emanuel's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $13 by 2018.

“It's a start. But it's not enough. I'm still going to be living in poverty,” Hunter said.

But Tanya Triche, who speaks for some of Chicago and Illinois' biggest retailers and employers, said the answer is not to raise the minimum wage. With the region suffering some of the worst unemployment in America, what would be better for workers is if the private sector created the sort of middle income jobs that were once plentiful here.

“We've chased a lot of middle income jobs out of this city and out of this state over many years. And so we've seen jobs at the top and jobs at the bottom,” said Triche.

Triche said that retailers pressured by razor-thin profit margins would turn to technology to replace some workers, as wage rates rise. Chicago once had thousands of parking lot cashiers. However, it no longer does. Countless bank tellers have disappeared.

Mayor Emanuel said he's helped business create jobs by eliminating the old per-worker head tax, streamlining licenses and improving job training.

“Our community colleges are training people for a middle class job, whether that's in health care, culinary, transportation, advanced manufacturing, IT professional services,” said Emanuel.

Emanuel said that if the Illinois General Assembly does not soon raise the state's $8.25 an hour minimum wage, he wants Chicago to do it alone, gradually phasing in increases to $13 by 2018 for those who employ 5 or more workers. Seattle recently moved to raise the minimum to $15 by that date for employers of 500 or more.

Triche claimed some restaurants in those towns have already eliminated jobs.

“People are ordering directly from their tables through an IPAD-like device. And they just have a food-runner come out. And so that's eliminated all those server jobs,” Triche added.

A $13 an hour minimum wage would mean a raise for an estimated 410,000 Chicago workers, about 30% of the city's labor force. While researchers disagree about how many jobs might be eliminated, it's clear it will do little or nothing to create new jobs for the city's unemployed.

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