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July 27, 2006
Chicago City Council Passes Living Wage Ordinance

The City Council of Chicago has voted 35-14 to approve an ordinance that would establish a "living wage rate" and "benefits rate" that big-box retailers would be required to pay their employees in the city.

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The ordinance would cover retailers with annual gross revenues of $1 billion or more and with stores in the city of at least 90,000 square feet.

The "living wage rate" and "benefits rate" would increase in four steps. In July 2007, the ordinance would require covered employers to pay employees at least $9.25 per hour in wages and $1.50 in benefits. By July 2010, the ordinance would require large retailers to pay employees at least $10 per hour in wages and $3 in benefits.

In successive years, the rates would increase by rises in the cost of living.

The ordinance still faces hurdles. Mayor Richard Daley could veto the ordinance, but the 35-14 vote on the City Council would mean two more aldermen would have to vote against the living wage for the veto to survive, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The ordinance could also face a legal challenge by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which says it is confident that the courts will strike down the ordinance.

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