Debate rages on over a hike in minimum wage


Carolyn Van Houten/Tampa Bay Times/MCT:  Protesters gather in Tampa, Florida, to rally in favor of increased pay for fast food workers on Thursday, August 29, 2013.

Carolyn Van Houten/Tampa Bay Times/MCT:
Protesters gather in Tampa, Fla., to rally in favor of increased pay for fast food workers on August 29, 2013.

A minimum wage increase in Illinois has been a hot topic of conversation lately.

Most recently, a minimum wage hike has been suggested to reach $10 an hour in the state, with the goal of being raised to possibly $13 an hour by 2018.

As of now, minimum wage is at $7.25 an hour at the federal level and is $8.25 in Illinois.

“The thought of a minimum wage increase excited me, although I make more than that, as an employee because the cost of living has increased a lot over my lifetime,” Kate Vilt, senior marketing major, said.

The Minimum Wage Working Group hopes that this increase would upturn incomes for over 400,000 Chicago residents. This increase would take place throughout the course of four years.

Other benefits the group anticipates from the increase include the $800 million into Chicago’s economy as well as keeping up with the cost of living adjusted for inflation, according to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Gov. Pat Quinn also supports raising minimum wage in the state.

“Gas is almost $4 a gallon, groceries are expensive and five dollars can basically buy you nothing now, so I feel that as prices inflate, so should pay so we are able to keep up with it,” Vilt said.

Vilt currently works for Progressive International as an account executive intern, and is a sales associate at Pacific Sunwear at Eastland Mall in Bloomington.

She has also previously worked as an assistant manager at the store.

“If you work at a minimum wage job and perhaps didn’t go to school or that wasn’t an option, you’re bringing in roughly $10 to $15,000 a year. Most people can barely live,” Vilt said.

However, such a wage increase could be a double-edged sword, leading to a hike in retail, food and health care as high as 2 percent.

In some cities, like Seattle, the minimum wage has been raised to $15 — the highest in the country.

The concern with this increase has to do with small businesses especially — with a raise so dramatic, problems could arise. Some issues include having to change business models, a decline in business mentoring and current workers’ responsibilities possibly increasing as a result of a decrease in hiring.

In particular, restaurants — which typically pay their employees minimum wage — will need time to adjust to the increase if it is passed by voters.

“As an employee, it’s good, obviously,” Denise Karonis, Wildberries Restaurant manager in Normal, said.

“As an employer, it’s not so good. We have to make it up in other ways, like eliminating positions and increasing prices to the customers. An increase may be necessary — but a staggering one, no,” she said.

Maybe it should happen more gradually so the impact will not be so harsh — on small and large businesses alike, she said.

“It’s a bittersweet thing,” Karonis said. “It will probably be very hard but necessary in the long run.”

Karonis also mentioned the fact that as the price of food vendors go up, managers and owners of restaurants will have to up their own prices just to keep up with costs overall.

“It’s just kind of that vicious circle,” she explained.

Although the issue will not be voted on until early November of this year, it is one debate that will not being going away any time soon.

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