Making ends meet not easy for many in Chicago

The news: In May, the Chicago City Council’s zoning committee postponed a decision to allow Wal-Mart to open a new location in the Far South Side’s Pullman community after facing stiff opposition from unions, which demanded, among other things, a minimum wage of $11.03.

Behind the news: In the Chicago metropolitan area, 37 out of 449 occupation categories had an average hourly wage of less than $11.03–”the amount called for in a bill proposed in March, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The 37 occupation categories employed 771,200 people, comprising about 21 percent of the people employed in the Chicago area.

Among the lowest-paid workers were dishwashers, food servers, attendants and cashiers. Cooks at fast-food restaurants earned the lowest wage at an average of $8.62 per hour.

Jo Patton, director of special projects at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said earning $11.03 or less is too little to make ends meet for a family in Chicago.

“There’s no clear magic number of what a livable wage is,” she said. “But that’s just not a livable wage.” Ron Baiman, director of budget and policy analysis at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said it’s outrageous that people are working full time and can’t pay to support themselves. “I think it’s a terrible failure of this country’s business and economy,” he said.

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