Critical minimum wage ballot question for Illinois voters

Illinois' minimum wage referendum

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, second from left, shakes hands with Sen. Dick Durbin as Rep. Bill Foster, second from right, looks on. With a minimum wage referendum on the Illinois ballot this November, all the men recently met in Aurora to discuss raising the minimum wage. Pat Barcas/staff photographer


By Pat Barcas
Staff Writer
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at: pat@foxvalley

AURORA — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster hosted a discussion Oct. 8 at Foster’s Aurora office, encouraging a national minimum wage increase to $10 per hour.

Mayor Tom Weisner, and two local minimum wage workers struggling to make ends meet financially, joined them at the press conference. There is a minimum wage referendum on the ballot in Illinois this November.

“It’s unacceptable in America, that you can get up and go to work every day, and still be living in poverty. That’s why we believe, we ought to raise the minimum wage in this country,” said Durbin.

Illinois is currently at $8.25 per hour, above the national average of $7.25 per hour.

“That’s not enough, we’ve got to move this up to at least $10 per hour,” said Durbin. “We’re encouraging voters to stick with it. Down at the bottom of the ballot, this is one of the critical questions.”

Durbin said his challenger this fall, Jim Oberweis, has one of the most “bizarre ideas in history about minimum wage.”

“He says it will be against the law to give an increase in minimum wage to anyone under the age of 26. Who would that include? Students, single moms raising kids, a lot of women, and it would include returning veterans under the age of 26. What is he thinking?” questioned Durbin. “He’s completely out of touch with the reality that people are facing today.”

Two constituents currently working minimum wage jobs joined the press conference to explain how a hike would help them in their day to day lives.

Joliet, Ill. resident Donna Dyxin

Joliet resident Donna Dyxin shares her story of financial setbacks with Sen. Dick Durbin. She earns $8.46 an hour. Pat Barcas/staff photographer

Jesse Garner of Aurora is a student who works at Home Depot and has to commute to Sugar Grove. Donna Dyxin of Joliet said she and her husband were laid off, and now struggle to support her four children.

She said she suffered financial setbacks right when getting ready to retire. Her house has been in a no default foreclosure for the last six years.

“To say that money has been tight in the recent years is an understatement,” she said. “We have tried many ways to make ends meet. I now work retail for $8.46 an hour. I call it my slave labor job.”

She said she works as many hours as possible, only up to 39 and three quarters.

“Otherwise, I would be considered full time,” she said. “A raise to even $10 would be a big boost for us. It would at least mean an extra $65 per week. That money would help us pay some of our medical costs before we get to retirement.”

Weisner said the minimum wage increase is critically important to Aurora and to the entire nation.

“I am reminded of some words from Abraham Lincoln. He talked about the idea of ‘you work the fields, you harvest the crops, but you bring the fruits of your labor to someone else.’ That is fundamentally wrong. In order for democracy to thrive, it has to recognize the inherent dignity of work,” said Weisner.

Companies rewarded for fair wages, good benefits

Sen. Dick Durbin visits steel factory
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin tours Chicago’s Wheatland Tube, a steel pipe manufacturing plant which provides workers with a livable wage with benefits, acting as the blueprint for a quality American job provider.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at

CHICAGO — U.S. Senator Dick Durbin introduced legislation June 23 that aims to provide a tax credit to companies that provide fair wages and good benefits to workers while closing a tax loophole that incentivizes corporations to send jobs overseas.

The loophole costs the U.S. Treasury approximately $50 billion each year at a time when outsourced jobs and stagnant wages force more American families to turn to safety net programs to make ends meet.

Durbin toured Wheatland Tube, a steel pipe manufacturing plant on Chicago’s south side which provides workers with a livable wage with benefits, acting as the blueprint for a quality American job provider.

“Instead of rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, we should be rewarding companies that invest in their workers by providing fair wages, health insurance and retirement benefits,” Durbin said.

“What sense does it make to hand $50 billion in taxpayer money to companies that export American jobs? In a time of tight budgets, we should reserve tax credits for the companies that do the most to help workers and our economy here at home, not corporations that ship jobs overseas,” he explained.

The Patriot Employer Tax Credit Act would grant a tax credit equivalent to 10 percent of the first $15,000 of wages earned by each employee- worth about $1,200 per qualifying worker depending on the company’s federal effective tax rate, to companies that meet the following criteria:

Invest in American jobs: Companies must maintain headquarters in the United States if the company has ever been headquartered in America, has not inverted to avoid U.S. taxes, must maintain or increase the number of workers in the United States compared to the number of workers overseas, and does not decrease the number of workers through the use of contractors.

Pay fair wages: Pay at least 90 percent of United States workers an hourly wage equal to 150 percent of poverty for a family of three- about $30,000 per year.

Provide quality health insurance: offer Affordable Care Act — compliant health insurance to employees.

Prepare workers for retirement: Provide 90 percent of non-highly compensated United States employees a defined benefit plan or a defined contribution plan with an employer contribution or match equal to at least five percent of worker compensation.

Support our troops and veterans: Pay the difference between regular salary and military compensation for all National Guard and reserve employees called for active duty and have a plan in place to recruit veterans.

Create a diverse workforce: Have a plan in place to recruit employees with disabilities.

Companies with fewer than 50 employees who face different business circumstances than larger corporations, can qualify for the tax credit by fulfilling a subset of these criteria.

To offset the cost of the Patriot Employer Tax Credit, the legislation would close a loophole that allows corporations to deduct interest expenses used to invest overseas, such as the interest costs of building a manufacturing plant overseas or shipping materials abroad, while allowing the company to defer paying taxes on income derived from those investments until it is repatriated.

Durbin said he’s hopeful the act will be successful.