Paul Sonn, deputy director of the poverty program at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, says other cities, including Washington, D.C., and Santa Cruz, Calif., are considering similar measures that would focus on retailers, or firms that receive tax breaks or economic development subsidies.
A report issued by the Brennan Center
as part of the Chicago City Council deliberations on the ordinance says that Chicago has the authority to single out retailers for a living wage under state Home Rule provisions and other court decisions allowing jurisdictions to take on problems "one step at a time."The report argues that state law permits Chicago to target one industry as part of a larger solution to broad income inequality.Sonn
also argues that the Chicago ordinance complies with a recent Maryland decision in which the court struck down a state law requiring Wal-Mart to provide employee health benefits as a violation of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).The Chicago law, he
says, tracks other court decisions, including a recent Emeryville, Calif., ruling upholding living wage laws that require the payment of a cash equivalent for benefits."Maryland's law was a straight health mandate, not a wage law.If you give the option of benefits or higher wages, that is the approach the federal courts have approved," Sonn