Restaurant Workers Might See Wage Increases

Chicago city council is holding a hearing on Tuesday to consider raising the wage of tipped workers.

As of current, tipped workers such as servers make $6.40 an hour, while non-tipped workers, such as sous chefs, earn $13 an hour.

It is down to the tipped workers to make up the $6.60 pay gap in tips, however, if the law was to change, both sets of workers would earn the same basic wage.

The union-friendly Restaurant Opportunities Center and lobbyists from the Illinois Restaurant Association will gather at the city hall on Tuesday to listen to the debate, which is set to last weeks before even making it to a vote.

If the law is changed, tips will not be eliminated but wages will prove to cost restaurant owners much more money. Some have already argued that they can’t afford to pay workers more because operational costs, including real estate and taxes, are currently on the rise.

It comes at a time when Chicagoans pay the highest sales tax rate in the country, coming in at a combined rate of 10.25%.

Members of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), however, have expressed their support for changing the system as they argue tips make servers likely to suffer to wage theft and harassment. Despite their heavy views on tips, they do not wish to eliminate them completely.

Washington DC has already undergone the debate that has now taken over Chicago.

DC initiative 77 was passed by a narrow margin in June 2018, raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour and phasing out the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.

The minimum wage for workers in Chicago is already set to rise with the rate of inflation in July, but ROC Chicago wants to raise the wage to $15 an hour. The issue is probably going to be discussed on Chicago’s own foody podcast, Overserved, soon.

Springfield lawmakers agreed to the same raise, but the change won’t be complete until 2025.

Man looking at a chalkboard with earning metrics

Restaurant workers in  California, Minnesota, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Montana are all already paid the same minimum wage, and tip credits have been eliminated.

If the tip credit was to be eliminated in Chicago, Sam Toia from the Illinois Restaurant Association said it would create an uneven playing field which would make restaurants in suburban areas more attractive to workers.

Non-tipped suburban workers, such as those working in one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world, Pilsen, currently earn $5.25 per hour, already creating a gap in wages between those inside and outside of the city.

This isn’t the first time this issue has arisen, either – it was last brought up under Governor Rod Blagojevich’s tenure in 2007 when the minimum wage was increased.


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