Minimum wage, maximum debate

Ameya Pawar, Allen Sanderson to clash over issue on Facebook Live


By Ted Cox

Alderman Ameya Pawar and University of Chicago economics professor Allen Sanderson go toe to toe Tuesday evening in a debate over the minimum wage.

One Illinois plans to carry it on Facebook Live, as Chicago Alderman Pawar is founder and executive director of the statewide nonprofit news outlet.

The debate, sponsored by the U. of C. Political Union, is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Room 107 of Kent Chemical Laboratory, 1020-24 E. 58th St., Chicago. According to a flier, dinner will be provided.

Pawar voted in favor of a Chicago measure backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel three and a half years ago to raise the city's minimum wage to $13 an hour by July 2019.

"You can't rely on the federal government to do right by people," he said at the time. "So we have no real ability to address income inequality unless we address it locally."

Pawar also insisted it had to be combined with other reforms like paid sick leave, a progressive state income tax, and expanding the earned-income tax credit to single fathers, saying, "The deck is still stacked against everyday people."

Sanderson, meanwhile, is more of a U. of C. free-market economist. A popular lecturer, he won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching 20 years ago He called the minimum wage "just a clumsy anti-poverty program" four years ago, adding, "I'd rather go after skills and improve skills. I want people to have more command in the workplace, and I want them to have much more than $7.25 an hour. I just don't want McDonald's to be the place where they can make that."

While supporters of a hike in the minimum wage have said no one should work full time and live in poverty, Sanderson has argued it would hold experienced workers in relatively low-paying jobs and block the way of younger people entering the work force.

Pawar and Sanderson will no doubt decide the issue once and for all Tuesday.