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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 1, 2008

Gov. Blagojevich reminds Illinois workers of minimum wage increase to $7.75 an hour effective July 1
Statewide minimum wage hike will benefit nearly 650,000 hardworking Illinoisans

CHICAGO -- Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today reminded Illinois workers that the state’s minimum wage will increase to $7.75 an hour starting Tuesday, July 1.  The increase will help nearly 650,000 workers cope with the rising cost of living and pay for basic necessities like groceries, gas, rent, childcare and medicine. 
 
Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation in December 2006 boosting Illinois’ minimum wage to $7.50 an hour with an additional 25 cents in each of the following three years to $7.75 on July 1, 2008; $8.00 on July 1, 2009; and $8.25 on July 1, 2010.
 
The Governor also reminded Illinois workers that if they are not receiving at least the minimum wage, they should call the Illinois Department of Labor’s (IDOL) hotline at 1-800-478-3998 so the State can help them get the wages they’re owed.
 
“Thousands of workers struggle every day at work to provide for their families.  During a time of national economic crisis, increasing Illinois’ minimum wage will help workers put food on the table, pay for gas, and provide healthcare and education for their families.  Starting July 1, the increased minimum wage will make it easier for working families to afford their basic necessities,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
 
Raising the minimum wage to $7.75 an hour will generate an additional $520 in annual wages for a full-time minimum wage worker – up to $16,120 per year.  For a two-person household in which each person works full-time and earns the minimum wage, that means an increase of more than $1040 a year to spend on basic needs. When the final rate of $8.25 per hour takes effect in 2010, Gov. Blagojevich will have helped boost the pay for minimum wage workers in Illinois by $3.10 per hour, or 60 percent in seven years. This makes Illinois a national leader in raising wages for low-income workers.
 
“On July 1, the Department will enforce a higher minimum wage of $7.75 an hour in Illinois, so both employers and employees should be aware of the law’s requirements.  We will continue to ensure that workers receive the wages they’ve earned,” said IDOL Director Catherine Shannon.
 
Gov. Blagojevich first boosted Illinois’ minimum wage to $5.50 an hour in 2004 and $6.50 an hour in 2005.  Prior to the increase, minimum wage earners were suffering a significant loss in purchasing power, as the federal minimum wage of $5.15 remained stagnant for nearly a decade.  The minimum wage of $6.50 an hour increased the annual income of a full-time minimum wage worker to $13,520 a year, lifting a two-person family above the 2005 federal poverty level of $12,500 a year.  However, in the two years since that increase took effect, the federal poverty level for a two-person household rose to $13,200 a year, reflecting higher costs of living and rising consumer prices for energy, groceries and other staples.  Illinois workers earning $6.50 an hour would have continued to earn a wage at or near the poverty level.  To address this problem, the Governor signed legislation in 2006 to provide an additional increase in the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour, to increase by 25-cent increments every July to reach $8.25 in 2010, which will be significantly higher than the current federal minimum wage of $5.85 an hour.
 
Research has shown that a higher minimum wage contributes to more jobs and a stronger economy.  Approximately 144,000 of the workers who would benefit directly from the minimum wage increase are working parents, and nearly 60 percent of them are women, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and Voices for Illinois Children (VIC).  Over 80 percent of minimum wage workers in Illinois are working adults, not teenagers, and one-third of minimum wage earners are sole breadwinners for their families.  Additionally, increasing the minimum wage will help boost the standard of living for 269,000 Illinois children, according to the EPI and VIC.
 
Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Blagojevich has championed the needs of working families through executive or legislative action, making Illinois one of the most progressive states in the nation when it comes to protecting and promoting worker rights.
·        Minimum Wage.  Gov. Blagojevich raised the minimum wage twice, from $5.15 to $7.75 an hour, benefiting more than 650,000 workers, and strengthened its enforcement.  Since 2003, the state has collected and distributed more than $3 million in minimum wage/overtime payments to Illinois workers.
 
·        Employee Misclassification.  In 2007, Gov. Blagojevich signed the Employee Classification Act to prevent the practice of misclassifying workers in the construction industry as independent contractors. The law will make sure that employees in the construction trades are properly classified, entitling them to protections under numerous labor laws, including minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.
 
·        Day Laborers.  In 2005, Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation making Illinois the most aggressive state in the nation in safeguarding day laborers.  Since 2004, the state collected and distributed over $500,000 in back wages to day and temporary laborers that were underpaid by their employers and since 2006, and collected more than $60,000 in penalties against day temporary labor agencies that failed to register with the Department as required by law.
 
·        Workers’ Comp Reform.  Gov. Blagojevich reformed the workers’ compensation system for the first time in almost 20 years to increase benefits for workers, reduce costs for business and raise the penalties on employers or insurance companies who fail to obtain workers’ compensation insurance or unreasonably delay the payment of benefits. 
·        Prevailing Wage.  Gov. Blagojevich has signed four major prevailing wage bills into law (2003-2006) strengthening and expanding our law to ensure that people who build our roads, bridges, state facilities and schools receive good wages and benefits.  Since 2003, the state has collected and distributed nearly $6 million to Illinois construction workers who were paid less than the prevailing wage on public construction projects, and has collected more than $1 million in penalties from contractors who violated the Prevailing Wage Act.
 
·        Overtime Protection.  Gov. Blagojevich preserved overtime protections for hundreds of thousands of workers whose rights to overtime pay were threatened by federal regulatory changes.
 
·        Card Check.  In 2003, Gov. Blagojevich signed Card Check legislation, which provides automatic union recognition to public and educational employees if a majority of the workers sign union authorization cards. 
 
·        Project Labor Agreements.  In 2003, Gov. Blagojevich signed an Executive Order which authorized State building and highway projects to be completed under labor agreements with the AFL-CIO craft unions.
 
·        Collective Bargaining.  Gov. Blagojevich has signed two Executive Orders and additional legislation to give over 80,000 healthcare and childcare workers collective bargaining rights.
·        Responsible Bidder Act.  In 2003, Gov. Blagojevich signed the Responsible Bidder Act which requires that contractors and subcontractors doing business with the State must participate in federally registered apprenticeship and training programs. 
 
·        Equal Pay.  In 2003, Gov. Blagojevich signed the Illinois Equal Pay Act to ensure that women who do the same work as men receive the same pay.
 
·        Advance Notice of Layoffs.  Gov. Blagojevich signed the Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act to require large employers to give 60 days advance notice of a plant closing or mass layoff.


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