CHICAGO — In a 35-14 vote the Chicago City Council passed a wage ordinance, requiring “big box” retailers to pay their workers a living wage.

The ordinance will require mega-retailers like Wal-Mart to pay their workers at least $10 an hour in wages plus $3 in benefits by July 1, 2010. The Illinois minimum wage is $6.50 an hour.

Earlier, observers said the vote would be too close to call. But after an intensive two days of protests and vigils, and a bruising debate in the council meeting, the measure passed by a substantial 21-vote margin. Supporters of the wage ordinance included unions, churches and community groups who said Chicago should be a leader in setting standards for worker pay and benefits.

Wal-Mart won infamy in many states by paying so little without benefits that workers were forced to apply for government-subsidized health insurance.