Chicago Mayor Wants an Exception to Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021, but left tipped workers out of the pay bump.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021, but left tipped workers out of the pay bump. Shutterstock


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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Louisiana governor election results … New York to consider commercial rent controls … Shooting in California high school. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021, but left tipped workers out of the pay bump. Instead, she proposes to slightly raise the minimum wage allowed for workers who make tips from $6.40 per hour to $8.40 per hour. Her proposal faced opposition from some on the city council, including Alderwoman Sophia King, who has proposed a competing ordinance that would require tipped workers to be paid at least $15 per hour by 2023, while also calling for a broader hike to $15 for the minimum wage in the city by 2021. That date is four years ahead of when the state is set to hit that mark. King said that restaurant workers are some of the city’s most vulnerable, and that women and people of color make fewer tips on average than their white male peers. “I was disappointed to see the restaurant industry’s subminimum wage proposal within the management ordinance. We will continue to advocate on behalf of these workers and look forward to an ongoing dialogue,” she said. Dan Lurie, Lightfoot’s chief of policy, said her proposal on tipped workers was reasonable and denied that the mayor was cowing to restaurant industry requests. “We didn’t do this under duress. This wasn’t an attempt to split the difference between two sides. It’s a capacity problem. We want small restaurants to budget and plan for this,” Lurie said. The Illinois Restaurant Association signaled support for the mayor’s plan. “We must have balance between the needs of hard-working Chicagoans and the neighborhood businesses that drive our economy. This ordinance takes a pragmatic approach to a $15 minimum wage by maintaining the tip credit for employers, which will protect jobs while keeping costs reasonable for both restaurants and diners,” said Sam Toia, president and CEO of the group. A recent study found that more than 27% of black workers and 18% of white workers in Chicago’s restaurant industry were living in poverty. Nataki Rhodes, lead organizer with the nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Center of Chicago, said that she is disappointed the mayor isn’t living up to her promises to help those in poverty. “We thought that the mayor was going to be a progressive mayor. So far it seems that the mayor is siding with the Illinois Restaurant Association,” she said. [Hyde Park Herald; Chicago Tribune; Crain’s Chicago Business]

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR | The 2019 Democratic victories in the South continued over the weekend with the re-election victory of Gov. John Bel Edwards in Louisiana. A moderate Democrat who expanded Medicaid in his first term, Edwards on Saturday narrowly defeated challenger Eddie Rispone, a Republican businessman from Baton Rouge. President Trump campaigned for Rispone, making repeated visits to the state during the campaign. The Edwards win follows Democrats earlier this month defeating Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in Kentucky and winning majorities in the Virginia state House and Senate. The only Democratic governor in the Deep South, Edwards emphasized his success in stabilizing the state budget, suggesting a Republican takeover would lead to repeated budget cuts, as were seen during the tenure of his predecessor, Bobby Jindal. During his victory speech, Edwards pledged to work on raising the minimum wage and boosting early childhood education. “Tonight, the people of Louisiana have chosen to chart their own path,” he said. A Democrat in a deeply Republican state, Edwards has been generally supportive of the president, but on Saturday night he slyly noted Trump's involvement in his race. “And as for the president, God bless his heart,” he said.  [The Advocate; Associated Press; Washington Post]

COMMERCIAL RENT | New York City Councilmember Stephen Levin plans to introduce measures that would provide for commercial rent stabilization in the city, citing the staggering number of empty storefronts. Levin called it “a complex problem” that could be solved by offering help to landlords and small businesses. "It's fair to property owners. We’re certainly not taking away their livelihoods. We’re saying there has to be some fair rubric in all of this to allow smaller businesses to compete for their existence,” he said. Lena Afridi, a policy expert with United for Small Business NYC, said that commercial rent stabilization is sorely needed. "We are looking forward to getting real, meaningful protections to end the displacement of small businesses in immigrant communities and communities of color," she said. Council Speaker Corey Johnson in 2018 expressed opposition to a similar bill that would have provided commercial rent stabilization because it treated all businesses the same. “I don’t think this bill should treat a WeWork in the same way it treats a bodega. And that is what this bill currently does. I am not here today to help Goldman Sachs,” he said. Levin’s bill creates a framework for rental increases in commercial spaces limited to a certain size. [Gothamist; NY Curbed]

CALIFORNIA SHOOTING | A 16-year-old student shot and killed two peers on Thursday and wounded three others at Saugus High School outside of Los Angeles. The boy then shot himself, and is in critical condition, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Off-duty police officers were the first to respond, including a deputy from the Santa Clarita station, an Inglewood police officer, and a Los Angeles Police Department officer. Andrei Mojica, a 17-year-old who barricaded the doors of his classroom with desks and tables, said the shooting felt different than the drills his classmates had practiced. “We had no clue whether the shooter was on the opposite side of campus or right outside our door. That fear made it feel like we were waiting in silence forever,” he said. Los Angeles County Supervisors dispatched staff from the department of mental health to provide resources to students. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted his condolences. “Our hearts are with our neighbors in Santa Clarita in this awful moment of horrifying loss & grief,” he wrote. Joe Biden, who held his first 2020 campaign rally in California last week, called for increased gun control. “You parents and grandparents, you send off children—6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years old—and the first thing they learn is how to duck and cover … Damn it, we have to protect these kids. We have to do it now,” he said. [CBS News; Los Angeles Times]

VOTER INITIATIVES | Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that would allow voters to pass laws through ballot initiatives. State Rep. David Crowley said the legislation is designed to “expand the legislative process to include the people.” Under the measure, citizens could write legislation and gather at least 5% of the total votes cast in the latest election for secretary of state on a supporting petition. The legislation would then be placed on the next general election ballot, and if the majority of voters approve it, the bill would have to be introduced in the legislature without amendments. If it isn’t signed into law that session, the proposal would be returned to the general election ballot and if approved again, would become law. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald lambasted the idea. “This undermines the entire purpose of the Legislature and I don’t think it will find support among many members, whether Democrat or Republican,” he said. Crowley contends that 24 other states already have some sort of voter initiative process. [APG-WI]

Laura Maggi, managing editor of Route Fifty, contributed to this article.

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty. 

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