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Chicago Mayor Vetoes `Living Wage' Measure

September 12, 2006|From the Associated Press

CHICAGO — Mayor Richard Daley vetoed an ordinance Monday that would have required mega-retailers to pay their workers more than the minimum wage that applies to other employers after some of the nation's largest stores including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. warned that the measure would keep them from opening their doors within the city's limits.

Supporters said the measure would guarantee employees a "living wage," but in a letter to City Council members released Monday, Daley said the ordinance would drive businesses from the city.

"I understand and share a desire to ensure that everyone who works in the city of Chicago earns a decent wage," Daley wrote.

"But I do not believe that this ordinance, well intentioned as it may be, would achieve that end."

The ordinance was approved by the council in late July and requires so-called big box stores to pay workers at least $10 an hour plus $3 in fringe benefits by mid-2010. The rules would apply only to companies with more than $1 billion in annual sales and stores of at least 90,000 square feet.

The minimum wage in Illinois is $6.50 an hour and the federal minimum is $5.15.

Chicago has been at the epicenter of a debate about the wages at large retailers ever since the city rejected a proposal by Wal-Mart to open a store on the South Side, prompting the company to open a store just outside the city limits.

Monday's veto -- the first for Daley in his 17 years as mayor -- will probably set up a showdown during Wednesday's City Council meeting.

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