For Local Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 19, 2015
CONTACT: Jacob Swenson-Lengyel, jacob@npa-us.org, 312.316.3973

NEW REPORT DETAILS COST OF LOW-WAGES FOR COOK COUNTY

***DOWNLOAD REPORT HERE: http://bit.ly/215sjMV***

CHICAGO, IL — Today, National People’s Action released a new report titled “The Price of Poverty: How Corporations Shift Labor Costs Onto Cook County” which details the impact low wages on county government and the broader community. Nearly 20% of Cook County residents live in poverty and roughly 20% more are barely scraping by just above the poverty line. According to the new report, much of this poverty can be traced to corporations who push their labor costs onto taxpayers and county government, causing significant damage to the local economy. The report suggests the proposed Responsible Business Act would create an incentive for large employers to take responsibility for their own labor costs and provide critical revenue for services that hard-working low-wage workers depend on like child care, health care and affordable housing.

“This report makes it crystal clear: paying poverty wages hurts working families, hurts our local economy and hurts responsible employers who are trying to do right by their employees,” said Liz Ryan Murray, Policy Director of National People’s Action. “Cook County residents are being asked to pay more in sales tax, it’s past time for corporations to pay their fair share.”

The report lays out how low wage employers externalize labor costs, making County County residents pick up the tab.

  • While employee compensation has fallen to the lowest level in 65 years, corporate profits have been soaring, last year reaching their highest level in 85 years.
  • Poverty caused by low wages costs Cook County’s economy $1.2 billion each year, with $200 million more attributable partly to low wages.
  • Low wages push costs onto Cook County, like the $164 million the county has budgeted for unreimbursed health care costs in 2015.

“There are thousands of hard-working low wage workers like me in Cook County who are struggling just to scrape by,” says Gianna Chacon, a retail worker earning $10 per hour.  “At the same time, their employers – companies like McDonald’s and Walmart – make billions of dollars every year. These companies can afford to pay us enough to live on, someone needs to make sure large corporations either pay a living wage or pay for the public services that workers like me need to get by.”

As Cook County’s economy slowly recovers, it is more critical than ever that we invest in working families. The Responsible Business Act would create jobs in Cook County by putting money back in the pockets of working families and providing funding for vital public services. When workers earn more money and have the services the need, they spend more at local businesses, which grows our economy and creates new jobs.

“The Responsible Business Act is a win-win,” said David Borris, owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering, a local small business. “It will strengthen Cook County’s economy, level the playing field for responsible businesses, and expand essential programs that ensure low wage workers and their families can survive.”

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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.

For Immediate Release – October 20, 2015
Contact: Kristi Sanford, Kristi@iiron.org or 773-456-4024

Workers, Small Business Owners and Taxpayers Unite in Support of Cook County Responsible Business Act

Workers, small business owners, clergy, economists and taxpayers will pack the hearing to testify in support of the Responsible Business Act at a Cook County Board of Commissioners hearing on Tuesday, October 20 at 2 pm. 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 that refuse to pay their workers the Cook County Living Wage to 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.

“No economy can prosper with low-wages,” says Ron Baiman, an economist at Benedectine University. “Local governments can help by raising the wage floor for selective employers, as New York State recently did for all fast-food workers. Data suggests that the large employers that would be covered by the Responsible Business Act are being subsidized by the County as it provides vital services to their low-wage employees who cannot bear the cost of these services.”

“There are thousands of hard-working low-wage workers like me in Cook County who are struggling just to scrape by,” says Gianna Chacon, a retail worker earning $10 per hour.  “At the same time, their employers – companies like McDonald’s and Walmart – make billions of dollars every year.  These companies can afford to pay us enough to live on, but instead they choose to squeeze their workers and make a few million more. That’s just wrong. ”

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.

The Responsible Business Act — sponsored by Commissioners Robert Steele, and co-sponsored by Joan Patricia Murphy, Luis Arroyo Jr., and Jerry Butler, 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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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 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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