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Responsible Business Act Introduction
“The Fight for $15 Is Raising Wages” – In These Times
“Corporations should pay for employee benefits, not taxpayers” – The Chicago Reporter
“Proposal Targets County Businesses That Don’t Pay A Living Wage” – The Chicagoist
“Cook County Proposal Seeks Fee On Big Businesses Paying ‘Poverty Wages” – Progress Illinois
“Low-Wage Workers to Corporations: Pay Fair or Pay Up” – Take Part
October 7, 2015
Contact: Kristi Sanford, Kristi@iiron.org or 773-456-4024 or Jessica Juarez Scruggs, Jessica@npa-us.org, 202-256-8778
With Sales Tax Increase Looming, Cook County Board Weighs Fee on Corporations that Pay Poverty Wages
Grassroots activists will hold a press conference and rally at 10:15 am on Wednesday, October 7 at 118 N. Clark St. 5th Floor outside Cook County Commission Chambers to unveil the Cook County Responsible Business Act. The act aims to put a stop to unfair corporate practice of paying poverty wages, leaving taxpayers to indirectly subsidize corporate profits. The act would require big corporations to pay their workers the Cook County Living Wage or pay a fee to the county to cover the cost of essential services that low wage workers need – like child care, housing and healthcare – but cannot afford when corporations choose to pay poverty wages. Cook County voters support the Responsible Business Act by a two-to-one margin.
Cook County Commissioners recently increased the sales tax, which will disproportionately impact working families. Meanwhile two-thirds of corporations in Illinois pay no corporate income tax. Many corporations also pay poverty wages that have a negative ripple effect on the entire community. In Cook County, poverty caused by low-wages alone costs the economy $1.2 billion in lost earnings, crime, and poor health, with another $200 million in cost partly due to low-wages. The Responsible Business Act would begin to address the high cost of low-wages by requiring that corporations that refuse to pay a living wage pony up their fair share to support vital programs like child care that help workers survive.
“Poverty wages aren’t just bad for workers, they’re bad for everyone in our communities,” says Rev. Charles Straight, Pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in south-suburban Dolton. “Instead of eating in a new restaurant or supporting a local business, workers are sitting up at night wondering whether to pay the gas or the electric bill this month. Instead of being able to volunteer at their kids’ school or help out in the community, they’re headed to a second job. Large corporations have a responsibility to pay their workers a living wage.”
“At a time when it is getting harder and harder to find good-paying jobs, adults working full-time are being forced to take low-wage jobs to support their families. It’s tempting to believe that these jobs are being filled by teenagers working part-time, but the facts say different. It just isn’t fair that large companies aren’t paying their workers enough to meet their basic needs,” said Commissioner Steele. “The Responsible Business Act is vital to ensure that companies that won’t pay their workers a living wage don’t force Cook County residents to pick up their tab. The Act will improve the lives of thousands of families in Cook County while leveling the playing field for small businesses and growing our economy.”
The Responsible Business Act, sponsored by Commissioner Robert Steele and supported by IIRON and National People’s Action, requires corporations with more than 750 employees in Cook County to pay a small fee to the county for each employee paid less than the Cook County Living Wage of $14.57 per hour. The act would reward employers who pay a living wage and compel low-wage employers to pay for the cost of the damage they’re doing. When implemented, the fee will raise as much as $500 million over the next four years.
Not only is it wrong for the public to be subsidizing large corporations’ profits, it’s bad for the economy. Well-funded public services and decent wages are vital for a strong local economy. When workers earn more money, they spend more at local businesses, which are responsible for over 75% of new jobs since the recession and, on average, pay better wages than large corporations. Poverty wages take money out of the pockets of working taxpayers and into the offshore accounts of CEOs, with devastating effects on our communities.
IIRON is a metropolitan Chicago-based organization that trains people to understand, build, and exercise power through collective action so that powerful decision-makers act in ways that serve the interest of people and the planet, not just the interests of the wealthy and big corporations. National People’s Action is a network of 29 grassroots organizations in 18 states working together to advance a racial and economic justice agenda for a new economy and true democracy.
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