Good evening friends!
Today has been an incredible day at McCormick – we had the inauguration of Frank Yamada as president. All those in attendance can attest to the fact that it was an incredibly powerful service. We’ll be bringing you news on that Tuesday, so stay tuned for that.
Ryan Wallace recently went with a group of clergy, seminarians and other religious leaders to the Illinois capitol to lobby for raising the minimum wage. I asked to write this blog, and it stands as a testament to the McCormick community’s continued presence in promoting justice for all of God’s children. Written below is his account of the day and why it is an important issue to fight for:
It’s safe to say that 4:45am is earlier than I want to wake up most days. But this past Tuesday, that is precisely what time I (willfully) rolled out of bed. I had a good reason though. I was on my way to meet up with about 70 others to catch an early train down to the Capitol in Springfield to lobby for SB1565: a bill to raise Illinois’ minimum wage. After all, minimum wage workers all over the state wake up even earlier than 4:45 every morning to start preparing the breakfast and coffee we grab on our way into the office a few hours later, so maybe I owe ‘em one.
At 7am sharp, our train pulled out of Union Station. After some bagels and coffee, we got down to business. We had but a few short hours to teach crash courses in minimum wage reform and lobbying. Our train car was filled with a veritable potpourri of folks—clergy, minimum wage workers, nuns, lawyers, community organizers, lobbyists, and even an economist—but we all shared in the common goal of raising the minimum wage in our state. However, in order to pass the bill, we’d need more of an argument than, “$8.25 an hour isn’t enough to live on” (though there’s no doubt that statement is woefully true). We’d need the facts to back up our moral and democratic argument that no one who works full time should qualify for food stamps. We knew we’d need to have answers to pointed questions like: How will businesses be affected by the wage raise? Won’t raising the minimum wage cost our state jobs? How can we pass a raise in the minimum wage during an economic recession?
Fortunately, we did our reading ahead of time…
First, a recent national study comparing job growth in bordering counties with differing minimum wages has effectively proven that increases in minimum wage do not negatively affect job growth. Additionally, several other studies have demonstrated that raising the minimum wage actually saves businesses money (by reducing employee turnover and thus the cost of training new employees), generates new revenue for businesses (by increasing worker productivity), and creates a better work environment (by significantly elevating employee morale).
From an economic standpoint, there is also strong evidence that suggests we should raise the minimum wage. It’s been estimated that raising the minimum wage would generate over $2 billion in new consumer spending in Illinois over the next four years. Raising the minimum wage means putting more money in the pockets of low-income families who will turn around and spend that money every month (because they still won’t make enough to put it into savings), primarily on goods and services in their own local communities. In fact, some economists project that this new consumer spending could create as many as 20,000 new jobs in Illinois over the next four years.
If that’s not convincing, I imagine most of us would agree that minimum wage should, at the very least, grow at the same rate as our economy. However, as our economy has expanded, minimum wage has lagged behind. If minimum wage had simply kept pace with inflation over the past forty years, it would be over $10 an hour today.
While in Springfield, we collectively visited the offices of all 59 Senators and every last one of the 118 Representatives, delivering to each a scroll with the signatures of more than 200 faith leaders from around the state supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Many of us were even lucky enough to catch some of the legislators and sit down to chat about the reason for our visit to our state’s capital. We then gathered in the rotunda of the Capitol for a press conference featuring clergy, sponsoring legislators, workers, and experts, all attesting to the fact that the time is now to stand up for the lowest paid workers in our communities.
Many of us were also able to track down the legislators from our own home districts. Whether our Senators are co-sponsors or opponents of SB1565, we wanted to let them know where we as constituents stood on the issue. We hope you can join us for our next Springfield excursion, but until then…
Find your Senator, ask where she/he stands on SB1565, and let her/him know that you support SB1565 to raise the minimum wage in Illinois to $10.65/hour over the next four years.
Thanks for sharing this story with us and for standing up for minimum wage workers!
See you next week!