Minimum wage debate
5:56 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Ralliers Demand Minimum Wage Bump

Minimum wage workers and union members rally for a higher minimum wage in the Capitol rotunda.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The battle over raising the minimum wage got lot louder on Wednesday. Several hundred minimum wage workers and union members rallied in the Capitol.

Hannah Meisel reports on a rally in the Capitol. Participants support raising Illinois' minimum wage — currently $8.25 an hour — to a 'living wage' of $10 or more.

A coalition of unions and activist groups lobbied lawmakers and shared their stories of life on minimum wage.

Rachel Bittenbender is 25 and earning $8.25 an hour. She works just shy of full-time at a fast food restaurant in Dixon, near Rockford.

"After I pay my bills? That's about it," she said. "I have a little bit aside to help with some groceries...and then get my car with some gas if I need it for that week."

If the minimum wage were to be raised, Bittenbender says she'd go back to school — she wants to become an English professor someday. She's been working full-time for minimum wage since she dropped out of school to take care of her ailing mother.

Democrats like Sen. Kim Lightford (D-Maywood) have been pushing to raise the state minimum to at least 10 dollars an hour. Lightford cheered on the ralliers.

"We're not asking for a handout, we work," she said. "And we deserve to be paid a living, fair wage."

Republicans and business groups counter that raising the wage would hurt small business and drive unemployment.