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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 4, 2006

Governor Blagojevich announces new minimum wage hotline
Workers who do not receive Illinois’ minimum wage of $6.50 an hour should call 1-800-478-3998

PEORIA – Building on efforts to help working families across the state, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced on Labor Day a new toll free hotline – 1-800-478-3998 – to help workers making the minimum wage report if they are not receiving the state’s required minimum wage of $6.50 an hour.
 
“We raised the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour in Illinois -- a major increase from the federal minimum wage of just $5.15 an hour. That has helped nearly half a million families make ends meet.  Making $6.50 an hour helps you put food on the table and buy clothes for your children,” said the Governor, who spoke to workers at Peoria’s Gateway Center.  “If you work for the minimum wage and you are not receiving $6.50 an hour, call us at 1-800-478-3998 so we can help you get the wages you’re owed.”
 
By calling 1-800-478-3998, workers will be able to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) which will follow up with employers to make sure they’re paying their workers the wages they’re supposed to earn.  In order to enhance enforcement, the Fiscal Year 2007 budget allows IDOL to hire two additional people to investigate minimum wage and overtime complaints.
 
Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation in 2003 increasing Illinois’ minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, a significantly higher amount than the national minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, which has not been increased since 1997.  As a result, Illinois has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation, benefiting an estimated 450,000 Illinois workers in the state who are dependent on minimum wage salaries.
 
Prior to the $1.35 increase, a full-time minimum wage worker earned only $10,712 a year working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year -- well below the 2004 poverty level of $12,500 for a two-person household.  With a higher minimum wage in place, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage earns $13,520 annually.
 
Legislation signed by the Governor last July gives IDOL stronger authority to enforce the minimum wage, overtime and wage payment laws.  Senate Bill 2339 extends worker protections by penalizing employers who cheat workers of their earned wages, make illegal deductions from workers’ paychecks or refuse to pay wages owed to workers.  The new law expedites the process in which workers receive wages owed to them.
 
Protecting workers’ rights is a top priority for Gov. Blagojevich, who has through executive or legislative action, made Illinois the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to promoting the welfare of low-income workers.  Now:
 
  • Illinois is the only state in the nation that provides affordable health insurance for all children, so hardworking people don’t have to worry about what to do when their children get sick.  The Governor has also expanded the state’s KidCare and FamilyCare programs at a time when most states are slashing benefits for the working poor and kicking people off Medicaid.
 
  • Illinois is the only state in the nation that provides universal pre-school for all children.  Parents will not have to struggle to find a place to take care of their children while they are at work – making their lives easier and providing great educational benefits for their children.
 
  • Illinois has introduced new and aggressive laws against predatory lending so that hard working individuals and families will not fall into an endless cycle of debt caused by unaffordable loans and abusive interest rates.
 
  • Illinois is the first state in the union to introduce open road tolling – so that working people can get home from work sooner and spend more time with their families.
 
  • Illinois introduced a new $200 million program to help working families afford their first homes, and move to affordable housing developments near their places of work.
 
  • Illinois has protected hundreds of thousands of workers from being stripped of their right to overtime pay by new federal regulations.
 
  • Illinois is the most aggressive state in the nation in safeguarding over 300,000 day laborers across the state from abuses at the hands of unlawful day and temporary day labor agencies.  The Governor signed legislation giving the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) stronger enforcement tools, including stiffer penalties against violators.
 
  • Illinois has enacted legislation to broaden picketing rights for labor unions and other workers involved in labor disputes with their employers – allowing workers to picket, post temporary signs, park vehicles and set up tents on public rights without having to require a permit.
 
  • Illinois is making great strides towards ensuring that women receive equal pay for doing equal work of men.
 
  • Illinois has strengthened the Prevailing Wage Act by increasing penalties against contractors who unlawfully fail to pay construction workers the wages they have earned.
 
  • Illinois has dramatically overhauled its worker’s compensation system for the first time in nearly 20 years to increase benefits for workers, reduce costs for businesses and fight fraud.
 
  • Illinois is the third state in the nation to enact card check recognition of public employees.
 
  • Illinois has improved the structure and funding of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
 
  • Illinois ensures every contractor providing equipment, materials or supplies to the State of Illinois does not use goods produced by children under the age of 12 -- or face stiff penalties.
 
  • Illinois has expanded the rights of Illinois workers to join a union -- which has directly benefited thousands of home childcare workers, personal care assistants, graduate students and court reporters.


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