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Lawmakers Begin Hearings In Push For Higher Minimum Wage

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- The drive to raise the minimum wage in Illinois got underway at the State Capitol this week.

WBBM Newsradio's Dave Dahl reports the House Labor & Commerce Committee heard testimony Wednesday from supporters of increasing the minimum wage in Illinois beyond the current $8.25.

Lawmakers Hear Testimony On Push For Minimum Wage Hike

One proposal introduced to the General Assembly would phase in an increase of the minimum wage to $10.65 an hour in three stages by 2016.

Tim Drea, secretary treasurer of the Illinois AFL-CIO, told lawmakers a higher minimum wage would be all positive, and no negative.

"If we look at the first time the state minimum wage was increased – July 2004 to 2007 – the state economy added 305,000 jobs, so a minimum wage increase is not a job killer," he said.

Obie Wordlaw, who owns a medical supply company in Chicago, told lawmakers every member of his staff already makes at least $10 an hour.

"To start off with more than $8.25 is not a problem for me, because I understand the overall benefits for our economy," he said.

Chicago pastor Robert Jones pointed out an inconsistency in what politicians are or are not willing to support.

"It seems to be okay to increase the cost of public transportation, automobile insurance rates, and other services that workers rely on to get to and from work each and every day," he said. "Yet it seems that it is not okay to raise the wage for the workers who make the bread, who work at the gas stations, and who produce and sell so many of the goods and services that we as citizens are accustomed to using on a daily basis."

Robert Lee, a Chicagoan working for minimum wage, said he wants to be the man his four daughters think he is.

"They look up at me as a giant. They think I'm the strongest man in the world, but when I have to tell them no all the time because I can't afford to do what I need to do for them, it hurts," he said.

The Labor Committee will hear from opponents of a higher minimum wage at a separate hearing before lawmakers take any vote.

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