Women’s coalition questions mayoral candidates about economics, violence

By Kate Morrissey

Anne K. Ream, a member of Chicago Women Take Action, said none of the mayoral candidates, who spoke at a recent forum organized by the coalition, could walk away without understanding the organized power of women in Chicago.

Ream said that she thinks three of the candidates have potential but that her coalition must hold them accountable on issues such as minimum wage increases and domestic violence.

“I don’t think they will do a good job if we don’t bring pressure to bear,” she said at the forum Saturday. “Campaigns are dynamic, but governing is dynamic, too.”

Ream was among the estimated 450 people who gathered at the Chicago Temple to find out what the five candidates, who included Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Bob Fioretti, had to say about the 11 issues that make up the Chicago Women’s Agenda.

Roughly 450 people fill the lower level and the balcony of the Chicago Temple on Saturday for the Chicago Women Take Action mayoral forum. (Kate Medill/MEDILL)
Roughly 450 people fill the lower level and the balcony of the Chicago Temple on Saturday for the Chicago Women Take Action mayoral forum. (Kate Medill/MEDILL)

Ream said the forum “illustrated thinking through women’s issues holistically.” Marilyn Katz, the co-founder of Chicago Women Take Action, said that the group asked women to submit agenda ideas to its website last summer.

“Obviously as women we’re all for the right to control your body, but the topics that came up were economic issues,” said Katz, who established the organization in 2014, adding that minimum wage and fair pay are still the top issues for women today.

Lucy Smith, of Rogers Park, shared Katz’s view on economic issues.

“It always comes down to money and access,” she said. Both Garcia and Willie Wilson said during the forum that they support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Fioretti was not asked about that issue during the forum, but according to his campaign website, he also supports the raise. Emanuel, on the other hand, focused on his work to raise the minimum wage to $13 per hour during his current term.

William Dock Walls was not asked about his opinion on the minimum wage issue, and it is not featured on his website. He was not available for comment prior to publication.

Ream, who founded the Voices and Faces Project, which compiles stories of sexual violence victims, said she was worried about Wall’s remarks on violence against women.

Walls said young women need to be educated about the issue both through school and public service announcements.

“You have to indoctrinate young women early on and acquaint them with the fact that these types of activities do go on, this type of behavior does exist, point out to them what the pitfalls are and what the telltale signs are in young men,” he said.

“I found that response very telling,” said Ream.

Photo at top: Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about his work raising the minimum wage to $13 per hour at the Chicago Women Take Action mayoral forum on Saturday. (Kate Morrissey/MEDILL)