IL State Legislators, Advocates Announce One Fair Wage Legislation

One Fair Wage, a national nonprofit that advocates on behalf of restaurant workers, along with State Rep. Camille Lilly, Women Employed, and local restaurant owners and workers announced the One Fair Wage Act (House Bill 5139), which would end the subminimum wage in Illinois.

The legislation is being announced in response to a wage shortage crisis across Illinois; One Fair Wage says raising wages for restaurant workers who work for subminimum wages is critical to helping the industry recover. One Fair Wage has tracked over 200 restaurant owners in IL who have voluntarily raised wages for tipped workers; this bill would create a level playing field for these responsible restaurant owners and help them fully reopen by sending a signal to millions of workers that wage increases will be permanent.

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently estimated that 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November – with 1 million of those workers leaving jobs in the restaurant or hotel industries. While overall, 3% of the total workforce quit in November – that rate was double in the restaurant industry – suggesting that rather than a labor shortage, workers have been quitting this sector due largely to low wages.

“Tens of thousands of Illinois tipped workers have left the restaurant industry and are not willing to return until they can earn a full and fair wage—with tips on top. Illinois workers deserve to earn a wage that allows them to support themselves and their families,” said State Rep. Lilly.

“Nine of Illinois’ fifteen lowest paying jobs are tipped occupations and women are the majority in over half of them,” said Women Employed’s President and CEO Cherita Ellens. “This poverty burden falls disproportionately on women, and in particular women of color. We can continue to talk about closing the wealth gap, but we have to be willing to make the hard decisions and change policies that perpetuate long-standing inequities. Women Employed is committed to building the economic power of women in Illinois and is proud to co-lead the Illinois coalition to ensure a full and fair wage for all, and we are thankful to Rep. Camille Lilly for her leadership on this issue.”

“It is no wonder that workers are exiting the leisure and hospitality industry en masse,” said Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage. “The last two years of this horrendous pandemic have been more than a hard time for restaurant and hospitality workers –– especially tipped workers who have been struggling with subminimum wages. Looking at the data and speaking to workers, the crisis in Illinois’ restaurant industry is clear. If the industry is to survive, the state must raise the wage and pay tipped workers a full livable wage with tips on top.”

Mo Carter, owner of MJB Restaurant Group, stated the following in support of the bill, “Part of the matter of “The Great Resignation” is the right to earn not just a livable wage but a life-sustaining one. Consistent, strong staff are the support beams to ownership and they’re relying on their employers to recognize that worth.”

“Now is the time to end the subminimum wage for tipped workers, by all means necessary,” said Antoinette J. Simmons, One Fair Wage Illinois worker leader.

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