Will the Illinois minimum wage increase be helpful or hurtful?


Julissa Luna

On Feb. 19 Governor J.B Pritzker signed a bill to increase the minimum wage over the next six years to $15 per hour.

Ethan Wiles, Staff Writer

In February, the Illinois House voted to raise the minimum wage from the current $8.25 an hour to $15 by the year 2025. Many high school and college students work at jobs that only pay minimum wage, such as McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants as well as retail stores and other part-time positions. As a previous McDonald’s employee, the idea that employees could eventually make up to $15 an hour makes the life of a working student sound better than what it feels like now.

For servers like second-year student Austin Grenert, the minimum wage increase would mean something totally different than what it may mean to your average part-time employee.

A mainstream raise to minimum wage up to $15 would probably cause a raise to what I make hourly, but it wouldn’t be $15,” Grenert said. “It would probably be around $7 or $8.”

The new law states that employers have to pay tipped employees 40 percent of the minimum wage, as long as the employer makes up the difference if employees’ tips don’t actually add up to at least the full minimum wage.

Students like Brad Bartelt, who moved on from minimum wage and currently earn more money, feel that the minimum wage raise represents something different to each person.

I think that for some people, it can change their lives and for others, it’s just more money in the bank,” Bartelt said. “For those that work three jobs to support a family and themselves, this is a godsend, to the point that they may not have to work all three.”

The increase is set to increase about a dollar per year until it reaches the $15 per hour mark in 2025. The first increase will take place on Jan. 1, 2020 and will go up to $9.25 an hour. After that, it’ll go up to $10 an hour on July 1, 2020, and then continue to go up $1 an hour every first of January through 2025.

As some feel the effects of the increase, other employees like second-year-student Ariel Carcamo make more than the minimum wage.

“I have worked at Target for two and a half years, and I make more than the minimum wage currently,” Carcamo said. “For others who don’t make as much, I do believe that they are severely underpaid, and it is far from a realistic income.”

There is one issue that has come up with the increase in pay for employees as the minimum wage amount increases, which is that companies are going to need money to pay their employees. No matter the type of job, the product that is being sold will see a hike in prices as well.

This might cause inflation and cause the price of food in restaurants to rise, decreasing the number of people that go out,” Grenert said.

He also saw first hand how the higher minimum wage works in terms of the restaurant business while on a family trip to Seattle.  

Food in the restaurants we went to was outrageously expensive, and for outsiders like us, it’s very discouraging,” Grenert said. “I honestly think a raise in the minimum wage would have a negative effect. This is just based on personal experience.”

In a recent study, The Associated Press projected that “assuming the current inflation rate of 2.1 percent each year through 2025, $15 then will be worth the equivalent of $10.46 now. So, instead of an 81 percent wage increase from $8.25 to $15, after inflation, low-wage workers will be taking home only 27 percent more than they are today.” 

As someone who has been in the fast food industry, which is an occupation most often brought up when discussing the increase, I believe that this can be helpful to many families as well as students like myself. I started at McDonald’s as a junior in high school and made what I thought at the time was good money. I also spent time working with people much older than me, and they were living off of the $8.25 they made every day. Although it is a slow increase, I think that any increase will benefit the typical student working and going to school or even the person who is working three jobs to provide for their family.