Illinois bill filed would end sub-minimum wage for tipped workers

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — A new bill in the capitol would end the state’s sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.

The bill, filed Friday by Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero), would require all employers to pay at least minimum wage, even for workers in positions where tips and gratuities are customary.

“Eliminating the sub minimum wage is the right thing to do for workers,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do for businesses, and it’s the right thing to do for our state economy.”

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Tipped workers took to the Illinois capitol earlier this week to call on lawmakers to end the sub-minimum wage. It’s often used for wait staff and other tipped workers, who say it’s time for a change.

Right now, the minimum wage for tipped workers in Illinois is $8.40 an hour, much lower than the state’s current $14 minimum wage for other workers. If passed, the bill would go into effect in 2025 to make minimum wage for all employees, tipped or not, $15 an hour.

Even if the bill isn’t passed, the sub-minimum wage will increase to $9 in 2025, according to the Illinois Department of Labor’s website.

Under the current law, employers have to make sure what tipped workers make meets or exceeds the state’s $14 an hour minimum wage with tips combined.

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Advocates say the increase is needed to help workers make a steadier income.

“The restaurant industry has been one of the largest and fastest growing private sector employers in Illinois and nationally for decades, but it has been the absolute lowest paying employer in the United States for generations,” Saru Jayaraman, the president of One Fair Wage, said.

But the idea is leaving some business owners with concerns.

“The problem with then saying, ‘Okay, we’re just doing $15 an hour’ is that most likely, their customer now is thinking, ‘Okay, they’re making minimum wage, so I don’t have to tip them, or I don’t have to tip them as much,'” said Hallie Pierceall, owner of the restaurant D’arcy’s Pint in Springfield. “So it really is in the long end is going to end up hurting the industry a lot.”

Pierceall believes if this becomes law, she could have to make some changes.

“We would definitely have to raise prices …because then you’re also having to look at all the other staff that who are maybe just an hourly rate that are making minimum or you know, or well above minimum, then you’re gonna have to start paying them more,” she said.

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The Illinois Restaurant Association also disagreed with the proposal. In a statement, the association said the median wage for full-service tipped restaurant workers is already over $28 per hour.

“This legislation will do more harm than good as it will fundamentally change the way all restaurants operate, hurting our smaller, family-run and minority-owned businesses the most,” part of the group’s statement reads.

The calls to end the subminimum wage comes after Chicago’s city council voted to phase out subminimum wage for tipped workers raising their pay by 8% last year. Seven states already require a full minimum wage for tipped workers on top of tips.

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