Switching from tipped to minimum wage would be ‘catastrophic,’ Illinois restauranter says

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Advocates for ending Illinois' tipped wage gather outside the Illinois State Capitol. | BlueRoomStream

Battle lines are being drawn at the Illinois statehouse over whether to get rid of a lower minimum wage for tipped workers statewide.

While some are advocating for tipped workers to get the minimum wage with tips on top, a legislator who also owns restaurants says such a move would be devastating to the economy.

Advocates from the group One Fair Wage organized a rally outside of the Illinois statehouse Tuesday as legislators were returning.

State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, explained why she supports the effort.

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

State Rep. Mike Coffey, R-Springfield, who owns several restaurants, said while there may be good intentions for such a move, if passed into law, it would hurt consumers, employers and employees across the board.

“It’ll create unemployment. It will be hazardous to the business community, especially the restaurant community where you’ll see many of them go out of business, so it’s just not good,” Coffey told The Center Square.

State Sen. Lakesia Collins, D-Chicago, advocated for getting rid of tipped wages. She said they did that in Chicago and such workers get tips on top of a minimum wage.

“And it’s time for Springfield to bring the economic security to workers across the state of Illinois and to send a message that to do business in Illinois, you have to be able to pay your employees a living wage, period,” Collins said.

Coffey said removing the tipped wage would disincentivize quality service and could lead to such employees making less money than when they were tipped workers. He said while Chicago may have done just that, the idea is “catastrophic” for his and other communities across the state.

“All we do is between energy prices that are going up at a rapid rate, between food costs and everything going up, between the minimum wage, all they’re doing is ensuring that more and more businesses in the state of Illinois go out of business,” Coffey said.

Fewer businesses would mean a shrinking tax base, Coffey said, and he vowed to fight against the bill.

Legislators continue spring session Wednesday.

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