News Local/State

Reps. Ammons, Guzzardi, Push For Minimum Wage Hike

State Rep. Carol Ammons and Rep. Will Guzzardi are joined by a panel of home health care workers

State Rep. Carol Ammons and Rep. Will Guzzardi are joined by a panel of home health care workers to discuss House Bill 198, which would hike Illinois' minimum wage to $15 an hour, at Ammons' Champaign office Wednesday. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) says a higher minimum wage would help both workers and the economy. Ammons was part of a rally in Champaign Wednesday, pushing to raise minimum wage from $8.25 to $15 an hour over five years.

She was joined in Champaign by Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), sponsor of House Bill 198, and a panel of home care workers who earn less than $15 hourly.

Ammons says the measure would help lift 40-percent of the state’s workforce out of poverty, and give the Illinois economy a boost.

“A lot of communities depend on sales tax revenue, and so do companies," she said. "And when working people don’t have disposable income, then of course the drop in sales tax for communities is easy for us to see, and make that correlation.”

The panel of home care workers included Diana Inman of Decatur, who works two jobs, but earning $10.35 an hour, can't afford to retire at age 67.

"If I could get up to $15 an hour, I could drop one of those jobs, and leave it open for somebody else," she said. "But with the economy, I've got to work two jobs just to pay my bills."

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Walters of Homer said she had to quit classes at Parkland College in order to take a second job to provide for her children.

Guzzardi says there's also a mindset among some people that $15 an hour is only needed in the Chicago area. He says that serves as motivation for this week's tour to promote the minimum wage hike

"It's very helpful for us to be able to talk about the stories of real people, to share those stories," Guzzardi said. 

A recent study conducted by the National Employment Law Project says more than 35 percent of the workforce around Champaign-Urbana, or about 47,500 workers, earns less than $15 per hour, and 17.4 percent earn less than $10 an hour.

Other cities on the statewide tour to highlight House Bill 198 include Peoria, Carbondale, East St. Louis, and Springfield. The minimum wage bill cleared a House committee earlier this month.

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has said he would sign a minimum wage increase into law only if the General Assembly also passes business friendly legislation, like workers compensation reform.