Lawmakers in Springfield considering phasing out lower minimum wage for tipped workers

Currently, tipped workers earn a sub-minimum wage of $8.40 an hour, and supplement income with tips
Tuesday, April 2, 2024
OAK BROOK, Ill. (WLS) -- Lawmakers in Springfield are discussing pay for tipped workers.

One bill on the docket would raise wages for those workers.

It's a plan that is drawing criticism from restaurant owners.

At lunchtime at Lucca Osteria and Bar in Oak Brook, owner Steven Hartenstein said his employees work hard to provide great customer service to patrons.

"They work on: the better the service, presumably, the better the tips," Hartenstein said.

But Hartenstein, who is also the chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said lawmakers in Springfield are proposing changes to the pay structure for tipped workers that he said would cause them to lose money.

"What they're trying to do is come up with a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," Hartenstein said.

The proposal calls for phasing out a lower minimum wage for tipped workers.

RELATED: 'One Fair Wage' minimum wage for tipped workers plan passes city council committee

Currently, tipped workers earn a sub-minimum wage of $8.40 an hour, and supplement income with tips.

Under the proposal, all tipped workers in Illinois would be paid the state's minimum wage of $14 an hour, with tips put on top of that.

But there is concern that if restaurants pay their employees more, they would pass that cost on to patrons.

"You're paying up to $20 for a burger now. That's gonna go up to $30, or they're gonna close," Hartenstein said.

Server Luis Torreijos is worried patrons wouldn't be as generous with tips. He currently makes more than twice the minimum wage.

"And thank God for that. I'll be able to afford to send my kids to college, have a decent life, and I don't understand why they want to change it," Torreijos said.

The push for raising the minimum wage for tipped works comes four months after the Chicago City Council passed a similar measure.

Proponents say it will put more money into the pockets of women and people of color, who they say are negatively impacted by biases in the tipped wage system.

Sponsors of the legislation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A House committee will take up the issue in Springfield Wednesday. Both supporters and opponents will be on-hand to watch what happens.
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