CHICAGO (WLS) -- The SEIU, one of the city's most powerful labor unions, is putting candidates for Chicago mayor on the spot with an endorsement questionnaire that gauges their support for a major hike in the minimum wage.
At the Palace Grill in the West Loop workers are already being paid more than Chicago's $15.40 an hour minimum wage. The idea of seeing that pay jump by almost $10 an hour has obvious appeal to staff members.
"That would be nice. We work hard and I feel that people should get what they work for," said Tracy Barbalace, waitress.
Candidates for mayor and alderman interested in an endorsement from the SEIU state council were asked to fill out a wide ranging survey on issues, including whether they supported a $25 an hour minimum wage.
"For the folks we represent, they want to hear candidates say that they understand the struggle that working people have and that question really gets at that from our point of view," said Greg Kelley, president of the SEIU Illinois State Council.
The union didn't put a time frame on when it would like to see the minimum wage raised to $25 an hour, but said it's more to gauge how candidates feel about raising wages.
But for the owner of the Palace Grill, the cost of doing business has already skyrocketed since the pandemic hit three years ago. A huge hike in salaries would be tough.
"If I pay somebody $25 an hour I can't survive by charging $8 for ham and eggs, or $9 for ham and eggs, you just can't do it. All you're doing is passing the costs on to the consumer," said owner George Lemperis.
One customer said that kind of salary hike would probably double his bill and hurt workers.
"I think it would mean a lot of layoffs for regular people, blue collar people, hard-working honest people would lose their jobs," said Eric Simon.
But SEIU, which led the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, pushed back on those concerns.
"Not that long ago folks said the same thing about $15 and they said it's going to destroy businesses, it's just bad for the economy. It wasn't true then for $15, it's not true now," Kelley said.
And the union argues it won't for $25 an hour. But, it would not reveal how any candidates responded to the questionnaire.