As 2014 settles into its groove, the economy, jobs and wages continue to the the major topics for so many Chicagoans. In the last few days we saw Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner opine that the minimum wage should be brought down a buck in Illinois, only to quickly reverse himself yesterday when the quote became widely distributed.
“But isn’t that an interesting indication of how much this minimum wage discussion has become more public and has really shifted in a month?” asks Thom Clark of Community Media Workshop. “From where Rauner thought he could get away with a casual statement on a small-market radio station, only to have it come back and haunt him. And not only did he have to flip his comment, but he’s now suddenly on the bandwagon … for a ten-dollar minimum wage.”
The reader’s Ben Joravsky continues the thought. “Mayor Emanuel has also come out for increasing the minimum wage. He followed up President Obama. Everybody’s for increasing the minimum wage. They just don’t seem to be able to do it.”
The minimum wage debate has now been tied to the battle over extension of unemployment insurance, which is facing heavy fire in the Congress.
“The recession’s supposedly over,” says Clark. “But most of the middle class doesn’t feel that yet. We’ve not recovered the 30% loss in home equity, the jobs that have come back are not great jobs, the whole vote around the Boeing engineers thing was a setback for the middle-class. The floor that union organizing has traditionally provided since the depression has been disappearing. That’s why the minimum wage becomes more important because it’s been stagnant. The unemployment insurance thing is particularly important to me because that’s a direct infusion to the economy – every one of those bucks get spent today on stuff that people need. and with 60-70% of our economy dependent on consumer spending, it seems to me that’s a pretty inexpensive investment for this heavily-in-debt federal government.”
Joravsky has written a series of articles about how Mayor Emanuel has pushed forward so aggressively with expansion of charter schools, which he clearly seems to prefer over most traditional public schools. Joravsky says the mayor has created a “process to endorse his plan for more charter schools”.
“The Mayor is determined that he’s going to transfer schools from unionized work forces, which are the regular public schools, to a non-union work-force, which is the charter schools,” he explains. “My personal belief is that that union dynamic is at the heart of why he’s doing what he’s doing. There’s certainly no proof that charter schools do any better than union schools at teaching kids. So the Mayor set up this process where the community would have a say in determining whether these charter school applicants were worthy of receiving money. And the way that procedure was set up essentially guaranteed that the charter schools would get the sign-off for the money. So he set up a process to guarantee the outcome he wanted all along.
And we engage in some lively debate about whether the City did a good job clearing the streets, a favorite winter exercise for all Chicagoans.