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SPRINGFIELD — With an increase in Illinois’ minimum wage headed for approval, a group of business owners got together on Monday to warn of the consequences the law would have if no changes are made.
At a Statehouse news conference, they made a plea that Illinois communities outside of Chicago be spared having to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. The statewide rate is now $8.25 an hour.
“I and many business operators want to make sure employees make a good living,” said Mike Monseur, who operates Godfather’s Pizza and the Dew Chilli Parlors in Springfield. “We’d love to pay much higher than the minimum wage, but the market dictates what is affordable in order to keep our lights on and workers working.”
Monseur said he employs about 200 people at his restaurants, including people just starting out in the job market. If the higher minimum wage goes into effect, he said he’ll probably have to stop hiring inexperienced workers and possibly eliminate deliveries.
“I would like to keep investing in our community, but my government is forcing me to change or make other choices,” he said.
The news conference was organized by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which is pressing lawmakers to enact a tiered minimum wage. Its proposal would have a $15 wage in Chicago, while the suburbs surrounding Chicago would have a $13 wage and the rest of the state would have an $11 minimum wage by 2025.
The differences are meant to reflect that it’s cheaper to live outside of Chicago and that other areas of the state do not have the same economic activity as Chicago. The states of Oregon and New York use a tiered approach, paying a higher minimum wage in a major urban area and lower wages in less-populated areas.
So far, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has opposed a tiered system, and Illinois House Democratic leaders have also indicated they do not support changes to the minimum wage bill as it passed the Senate last week. If the bill passes as is, IRMA president Rob Karr said the result “is going to be devastating, particularly to suburban and downstate communities. Treating Chicago as if the rest of the state has the same strengths as Chicago is just simply illogical.”
Darin Dame, president of the Springfield Hotel Association, said some Springfield hotels could be forced to close if the minimum wage is increased and others may not be able to afford needed improvements. He said the average room rate might increase to as high as $125 a night, from the current $86 because of the higher wage.
Dame could not estimate how many hotel employees in Springfield are currently making minimum wage.
“A lot of the hotels in town try to bring in people above the minimum wage because we’re looking for a higher qualified person,” he said.
However, if the wage increases, he said, hotels will be competing with fast-food outlets and other traditionally lower-wage businesses for workers.
“It’s going to be hard for us to increase it another couple of dollars to try to find that person who’s a little bit above,” he said.
The House is scheduled to consider the bill in committee on Wednesday. That would set up a possible floor vote on Thursday. Pritzker has said he wants to sign the higher wage into law before his budget speech Feb. 20.