Businesses want legislators to know the hardships a minimum wage hike will bring
Business owners held a press conference Monday in Springfield to explain the hardships they would face if a proposed minimum wage hike should it go into effect, a posting on the State Journal-Register website said.
Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said only one business supports the $15 minimum wage hike proposal, and he doesn't fault that business because it is in the heart of Chicago and can afford it.
"Businesses come in all shapes and sizes," Karr said at the press conference. "I've been at this 25 years and I often beg retailers and employers to share their impacts. They're usually always hesitant. This speaks volumes that they're willing to be this transparent and come forward and share their stories."
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) is sponsoring Senate Bill 1, which would raise the state's minimum wage to $15. The bill would require employers to increase the minimum wage every six months from Jan. 1, 2020, until Jan. 1, 2025, in $1 increments and one $0.75 increment until the minimum wage goes from $8.25 to $15 for employees over the age of 18. Teenagers will receive wage increases during the same time frame to raise their salaries from $7.75 per hour to $13 per hour by 2025, according to the bill.
Karen Conn with Conn Hospitality Group, who was at the press conference, said her company employs more than 150 individuals from diverse backgrounds. "We do our best to have our employees earn a livable wage," Conn said. "I'm concerned that the minimum wage hike will cause us to eliminate entry-level jobs."
Conn also said regional cost variations exist within Illinois. "I can't figure out how to operate like this," Conn said. "We will have to restructure and examine service levels. We will have to re-evaluate training and retirement. It will change the quality of life for our employees."
Conn said she wants legislators to hear from downstate businesses. "As the saying goes, 'There is a state outside of Chicago and it's called Illinois,'" Conn said.
Darin Dame, who represents a local hotel association, said increasing the minimum wage will force hotels to raise rates.
"While Chicago can get away with that, we cannot," Dame said. "Hotels won't be able to offer rooms at discounted rates anymore."
Michelle McConnel, with Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in Bloomington, said local owners would be cutting benefits if the minimum wage is raised to $15.
"We would have to end up cutting shifts and look up automated systems to take over those jobs," McConnel said. "We don't want to do that."
Sandy Schoenborn with the Lincoln Theater said the theater is a first-time employer.
"For most of my staff, this is their first job," Schoenborn said. "Thirty-five percent are under 18 and 65 percent are under 21. Some of my staff starts as young as 15 with a work permit."
Schoenborn said the theater teaches the young employees the basics of having a job and allows young people in the community to have a job.
Mike Monseur, with Godfathers Pizza, said he hopes he can reach the governor and lawmakers making this decision.
"I appreciate them for listening to us," Monseur said. "I'm a small business owner hoping to get their attention. We own and operate restaurants and we pay our managers well – we offer bonuses and benefits. This is good for all of us."
Monseur said many employees have been with the restaurant for over a decade.
"We also provide opportunities for first-time job seekers," Monseur said. "Senate Bill 1 jeopardizes this. I will no longer be able to absorb training for job services and I'll have to eliminate delivery. These are the facts and this is very real – no matter what you're being told."