Living wage fight not over

CHICAGO — Although the City Council failed to overturn Mayor Richard Daley’s veto of the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance, supporters of the measure say the battle will continue.

The council had passed the ordinance by a 35-14 vote in July. Overriding the mayor’s veto required 34 votes, but three aldermen who originally voted for the ordinance, Shirley Coleman, Danny Solis and George Cardenas, switched sides Sept. 13.

The ordinance would have required retail stores in the city with over 90,000 square feet and $1 billion in sales to pay their employees $10 an hour with $3 in health care benefits by the year 2010.

Despite the outcome, “today was a victory for working men and women,” Alderman Joe Moore, sponsor of the ordinance, told the World at one of many rallies held downtown the day the veto was sustained. “After seven weeks of scare tactics by big business, fear-mongering and unrelenting opposition from the mayor, 60 percent still voted for a living wage, and that demonstrates a victory.”

“The battle does not end,” Moore told the rally, saying the issue would come up in city elections next year. “The ultimate victory will be a living wage in this city,” he predicted.

Assistant Pastor Louvena Hood with Redeemed Outreach Ministries, who is an ACORN member, emphasized the importance of a living wage. “We need more than just a job,” she told the World. “We need to worry about putting food on our tables. Parents need the opportunity to properly raise their children, to put them to bed and have dinner as a family.”

Illinois AFL-CIO Vice President Elwood Flowers linked the city’s living wage fight to national politics.

“We need to start in November” to “take back America” and “change the complexion of Congress,” he said in a phone interview. The “thugs in Washington who have invaded Iraq” are directly related to “gouging” corporate profiteers, Flowers said. “Wal-Mart is the biggest of them all.” The aldermen who voted against the living wage but “claim to speak for working families” should expect to pay a political price in the future, he said.

James Thindwa, executive director of Chicago Jobs with Justice, told the World that taking on big box companies is the right thing to do. Wal-Mart “pretends to be the savior,” but people know differently, he said. “People get it.”