Chicago Politicians Clash on Minimum Wage

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley recently vetoed an ordinance that would have required big-box retailers to provide workers with a higher minimum wage. On Wednesday, the city council tried, but failed, to override his veto.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The business news starts with charges of low pay in a big box.

A so-called living wage ordinance has lost its life in Chicago. The city council there failed to override Mayor Richard Daley's veto.

The measure would have forced retailers like Target and Wal-Mart to pay a higher minimum wage. Here's NPR's David Schaper.

DAVID SCHAPER: The ordinance would have required retailers with more than 90,000 square feet of space to pay employees at least $13.00 an hour in wages and benefits by 2010. The Chicago City Council approved it in July, over the objections of Mayor Richard Daley, who says the ordinance left the city at a competitive disadvantage.

Mayor RICHARD DALEY (Chicago): Well, again, you'd have to create jobs.

SCHAPER: After the July vote, Wal-Mart, Target and other big-box retailers threatened to pull out of planned retail developments in the city.

Mayor DALEY: Basically, they said we'll go right across the street into two suburban areas and build it right there.

SCHAPER: Daley convinced three aldermen to switch sides to defeat an attempt to override his veto. But living wage supporters like alderman Joe Moore aren't giving up.

Mr. JOE MOORE (Chicago Alderman): I can assure you that this issue will not go away...

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. MOORE: ...that the fight for a living wage and for a just society will not abate.

SCHAPER: Moore says he'll introduce a new living wage ordinance next month, while labor and community activists vow to target those who oppose the big-box proposal in next winter's Chicago city elections.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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