Springfield representatives are debating SB 1565, sponsored by Senator Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, which would raise the Illinois minimum wage to $10.55 per hour. If approved, this new minimum wage would be the highest in the country. The measure is prepared to go before the full Senate in hopes of being passed before the Legislature’s adjournment on May 31.
In Illinois, employers must adhere to the minimum wage and maximum hours provisions set forth in the Illinois Minimum Wage Law. This state law generally mirrors the provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, but actually provides for a higher minimum wage standard. Currently, the minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 an hour. If the bill is passed, the minimum wage would increase in yearly increments until it reached $10.55 per hour in 2015. After 2015, the wage would be adjusted annually according to the inflation rate.
Opponents of the bill are concerned that the increased hourly rate will be the demise of small businesses. One independent coffee shop owner, Lauren Klein of Champaign, Illinois said, “I agree that our workers should get paid more. But it’s not 2003 when they passed the last increase. It’s a completely different economy now and I just can’t afford it. My husband and I both work [at the coffee shop] about 60 hours a week and take home a minimum-wage paycheck.”
Another opponent, David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said the unemployment rate for teenagers in Illinois between the ages of 16 and 19 was 4.5% higher than the rest of the country.
However, many supporters of the bill applaud Senator Lightford’s efforts. For example, one supporter said under the current minimum wage she is often faced with choosing between paying for her medications and paying for gas for her car. A minimum wage raise would give her the opportunity to bring home a “livable wage.”
The debate will continue to stir strong support on both sides, as the Senate deliberates on the bill.