Chicago mayor vetoes <br>big-box living wage

34 of 50 council members needed to override ordinance

This week Chicago's mayor used his veto for the first time in his 17 years as leader of the city in an attempt to stop city council's ordinance requiring big-box stores to pay a living wage.

The ordinance, which would require retailers with more than $1 billion in annual sales and stores of at least 90,000 square feet to pay workers at least $10 an hour plus $3 an hour in fringe benefits, was passed in council by a vote of 35-14 in July.

At the time and since, critics, which include the city's Mayor Richard M. Daley, have been vocal about fears the wage requirement will drive retail giants such as Wal-Mart out of the city.

Daley vetoed the ordinance on Sept. 11, but could face a fight at the council meeting on Sept. 13 from the aldermen who supported it earlier this summer.

"I understand and share a desire to ensure that everyone who works in the city of Chicago earns a decent wage," Daley wrote in his veto. "But I do not believe that this ordinance, well intentioned as it may be, would achieve that end."

Instead, he wrote that the ordinance would drive jobs and businesses from the city, hurting the most economically desperate neighbourhoods.

An override of the ordinance would require 34 of the 50 aldermen to support the mayor's veto. Pressure from the mayor as well as business groups may help the mayor's cause.

At least one council member who supported the ordinance in July has told the Chicago Tribune that she now intends to vote against it. Another member who supported the measure is expected to be absent from the override vote.

Wal-Mart, which has criticized the ordinance, released a statement praising Daley's veto.

"His action encourages desperately needed business investment and development in the city, with job opportunities and savings for those who need it most," said Michael Lewis, a Wal-Mart official.

In Illinois, the minimum hourly wage is $6.50 and the federal minimum wage in the United States is $5.15. The ordinance would make Chicago the biggest city in the U.S. to require big-box retailers to pay a living wage.

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