Workers march in Chicago for hike in minimum wage

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Workers marched in the city's Loop in support of an increase of the minimum wage. (WLS)

Low-wage workers marched Tuesday afternoon in Chicago calling for an increase in the minimum wage.

Cook County's minimum wage jumps to $10 an hour, but at least 20 suburbs are opting out of the increase. Fight for $15, along with other groups, held several events Tuesday raising awareness about how the low wages impacts workers and their families.

At about 5 p.m., despite the drizzle, hundreds of people gathered at Daley Plaza with plans to march through the Loop to Michigan Avenue and end at the Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's in the River North neighborhood.

"It's quite shameful and disappointing to see any elected official not listening to the voters, not listening to the facts, and not doing what the community want and what workers need," said Shelly Ruzicka, of Arise Chicago.

Arise Chicago is working to maintain the minimum wage increase in the Cook County suburbs.

"These are pretty basic human rights. They're both policies that have been statistically proven to improve local economies, to actually support local businesses and obviously support workers," Ruzicka said.

Gloria Castaneda would have appreciated the increase. The working mother tells us she worked for the same Northbrook company for 23 years, topping out at $11.75 an hour. She said in Spanish that she had to work two jobs to pay her bills.

Arlington Heights opted out earlier this month, citing already-higher wages for their skilled workforce.

Jon Ridler, of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, said: "Sixty-eight percent of the respondents said they are already paying above minimum wage over the age of 18."

Last year, Cook County officials voted to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour starting in July with more increases to follow.

On Tuesday, Frank Shuftan, spokesman for the Cook County Board president, said: "We believe that those communities that are choosing to opt out of these ordinances are being extremely short-sighted. Incrementally higher wages mean that more money is put into, not taken out of, the economy."

Opponents of the higher minimum wage say it prohibits business expansion.

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