Boosting hourly law only hurts workers By Sam Sanchez and Scott DeFife July 11, 2014 9:16PM Updated: July 12, 2014 2:10AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s wage task force was inevitably going to come to the wrong conclusion.
Dramatically increasing Chicago’s minimum wage to $13 will not bring the economic growth and relief that this city needs.
For two months, the mayor’s task force heard from economists, business owners and labor leaders about the implications of an increased minimum wage. The mayor was right to seek outside counsel and we commend this process. What we take issue with is the lopsided and partisan solution the task force produced in spite of what it learned.
How do we know this? We were two of the business leaders who testified before the task force and offered first-hand perspective on the impact a large increase in the city’s minimum wage would have on our communities. They know their proposal will cause job loss and price increases, especially outside the downtown business district.
While Chicago’s economy is finally beginning a sustained recovery — led by the restaurant industry — unemployment is still more than 8 percent and youth unemployment is over 25 percent.
Raising the minimum wage is not a silver bullet solution for addressing the city’s economic challenges. Raising it to 75 percent above the rest of the area is extreme. It will not fundamentally address poverty or income inequality. Chicago would be better served by comprehensive economic policies that promote hiring and growth.
In our industry, the minimum wage is used primarily as a starting, entry-level wage for first time workers, teens or part-time workers. It is meant to help jumpstart their careers. In fact, more than 70 percent of restaurant workers receive a wage increase within the first year. Many stay and grow in the industry. These workers can’t afford to be shut out of jobs where they learn valuable skills and gain critical experiences.
The restaurant industry welcomes a discussion on these issues — in part, because we provide nearly 10 percent of the nation’s jobs and more than 300,000 people in Chicago. We are willing partners, but the task force seems to disregard small businesses and the jobs they provide. They were wrong to ignore the recommendations of people who employ and train Chicago’s workers and play such active roles in our communities.
We need comprehensive solutions that would help create jobs, strengthen the middle class, increase opportunities for families and put more money back into the economy.
Sam Sanchez owns John Barleycorn, Moe’s Cantina, Old Crow Smokehouse and Chen’s Chinese and Sushi. Scott DeFife, National Restaurant Association