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City Council raises Chicago minimum wage to $13 by 2019

The City Council on Tuesday approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to boost Chicago’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by mid-2019, while efforts in Springfield to hike the state’s rate and apply some brakes to further city increases fizzled at least until January.

In an overwhelming 44-5 vote steeped in aldermanic and mayoral re-election politics, Emanuel and supportive council members sought to frame their move as a way to lift out of poverty children in thousands of families, many led by single mothers.

“The minimum wage is speaking to making sure that nobody who works raises a child in poverty,” Emanuel said. “The minimum wage…really comes down to making sure that your child does not go to school on an empty stomach (or) making sure that you don’t pick between medicine or school supplies.”

Addressing the council after the vote, Emanuel at times appeared to be delivering a re-election speech. He called the minimum wage only part of his comprehensive economic strategy that includes education, affordable health care and opportunities for people to learn skills to put them on a career path at a well-paying job.

At one point, while boasting that business interest in Chicago remains strong, the mayor went so far to say that the city was tops in gaining foreign investment and corporate relocations and has the No. 1 “Little League team” — a reference to the national champion Jackie Robinson West squad.

At the same time, Emanuel sought to discount his re-election bid in pushing the politically popular wage hike issue, saying if it was only about elections, the rate would increase during each campaign season.

“They’re going to make the decision based on a whole series of things,” Emanuel said of voters in the Feb. 24 election. “They’re going to make a decision on the fact that are we doing the things necessary to grow the economy, create jobs, create also the quality of life we want to see in every neighborhood of the city of Chicago. They’ll evaluate that.”

But Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a mayoral challenger, contended politics was the motive behind Emanuel’s effort to prod the council to act.

“For a mayor who is fond of saying he makes tough decisions, I think we have a right to ask why he did not make an easy one. Why didn't he support a minimum wage hike during his first year in office,” Garcia asked in a statement. Garcia promised to boost the wage to $15 an hour if he is elected.

Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd, another mayoral challenger, voted for the Emanuel plan but raised similar questions.

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