Mayor proposes wage hike for tipped workers
By A.D. QUIG
Her plan would boost their pay—but not to the full $15 that some employee advocates were hoping for.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has introduced her proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2021 and boost base wages for tipped workers—but not to the full $15 that some employee advocates were hoping for.
Her proposal would boost the city’s minimum wage for businesses with 21 or more employees to $14 per hour on July 1, 2020, and $15 one year later. Those wages also would apply to the city’s sister agencies like the park district and Chicago Transit Authority and would rise with inflation.
For those with fewer than 21 employees, wages would climb more slowly, rising by 50 cents an hour each year to bring the wage to $15 per hour by 2023. (See the proposed wage schedule from the mayor’s office below.)
Subsidized temporary youth and transitional programs also would see a slower boost—from $10 per hour in July 2020 to $15 per hour by 2024. Wages would rise for disabled workers, camp counselors at nonprofit sleepover camps, minor-league baseball players, agricultural and aquaculture workers, and “learners” programs.
For tipped workers, Lightfoot’s proposal calls for a hike to the base wage and for the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection to study the issue throughout 2020.
In 2020, employers will be obligated to pay tipped employees 60 percent of the local minimum wage—$8.40 for large employers. Tips would then be counted toward the remaining balance up to the minimum wage—the employer must make workers whole if their tips don’t add up to the minimum wage.
Organized interests in the restaurant and business community had lobbied hard against a hike in the base wage for tipped workers, arguing it would drastically drive up the cost of doing business in a low-margin industry. In a statement from the mayor’s office, Illinois Restaurant Association CEO Sam Toia voiced his support of Lightfoot’s plan, saying it “takes a pragmatic approach to a $15 minimum wage that will protect jobs while keeping costs reasonable for both restaurants and diners.”
Lightfoot described today’s move as “the single most important way my administration has addressed poverty in our city and advanced benefits to our working families to date,” and promised “more to come on my anti-poverty agenda.”
Ald. Sophia King, 4th, with the support of some restaurant workers, sought to bring the base wage for tipped workers up to the citywide minimum rate, arguing that several states had raised such wages without significant fallout. She and the Progressive Caucus reiterated their call in a release Wednesday afternoon.
“From the outset, we have made elimination of the sub-minimum wage a fundamental aspect of this initiative,” King said in the release. “Tipped workers experience twice the poverty rate of the Chicago workforce and the vast majority of these workers are women and women of color. We have to get this right—it’s about equity and fairness for all workers in Chicago.”
“We have worked on this for over four years. Every step of the way we have been clear this initiative was about making sure that the most vulnerable workers in our city are treated with dignity and have a living wage to take home,” Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza, 10th, said in the same release. “Closing the gap between tipped and non-tipped employees is a critical piece of this effort. We have to provide relief to the workers who need this most.”
The Raise Chicago coalition—who has been advocating for a hike in the minimum wage and to bring tipped workers up to that rate—said in a statement that Lightfoot’s proposal “leaves tens of thousands of tipped workers vulnerable to wage theft and sexual harassment,” and that “putting high paid lobbyists of the Illinois Restaurant Association over the needs of low wage tipped workers is not progress.”
Workers have said the unpredictability of tips makes it difficult to budget day to day. A study from ROC and the University of California, Berkeley found more than 27% of black workers and 18% of white workers in Chicago’s dining industry were living in poverty, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Honni Harris, a member of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, which is also pressing for a tipped wage hike, said the mayor “must have amnesia. If she remembered how poverty felt, she would try to help people.”
On the other side, Tanya Triche Dawood, the Vice President and General Counsel at the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said her organization has a “number of concerns” with Lightfoot’s proposal. Triche said she did not understand where the administration came up with the 21-employee cutoff for a slower rollout of the wage rules. “Usually small business cutoffs are around 50.”
She also said an rise in wages for youth is “a big mistake” that disincentivizes companies from hiring teens for summer or weekend jobs, including at small grocery stores she represents. The current base wage rate for employees under 18 is $7.75—50 cents below the state’s minimum wage level.
Both sides have a short window to lobby aldermen and the administration—Lightfoot included the proposal as part of her budget, which she hopes to pass by Nov. 26.
Source : https://www.chicagobusiness.com/government/mayor-proposes-wage-hike-tipped-workers