Morrison won't support Senate-passed minimum wage increase
A $15 minimum wage increase that passed the Illinois state Senate earlier this week will not get any support from a certain suburban Chicago state representative.
"I think it would be harmful to Illinois as a state," Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) said during a North Cook News telephone interview. "It would make it more difficult for Illinois employers. It would raise the price of goods and services sold to the public. In some industries and positions, it would encourage automation, which then is harmful to the workers who are displaced. So, for those reasons, I'm opposed to it."
On Thursday, the Illinois Senate voted 38 to 18, largely along party lines, to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over six years. The increase would start next year by adding $1.75 to the current $8.25-an-hour minimum wage and then would add another dollar each Jan. 1 until 2020.
Morrison, first elected to his 54th District seat in November 2010, narrowly defeated Democrat Maggie Trevor of Rolling Meadows by 37 votes during last year's midterm elections.
The 54th District is located entirely within Cook County and includes Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows.
Fast food and "fast casual" restaurant employees would be especially hard hit by a minimum wage increase, Morrison said. That industry already is moving toward automation, including forcing customers to do the job of order taking by making them give their orders to a machine rather than a person. That process could escalate under a higher minimum wage and lead to fewer jobs for lower-income and entry-level workers, Morrison said.
"As a consequence, there are people who are just starting out in their career who need to get experience and learn how to work on a team, they need learn customer service skills, they need to learn general work skills," he said. "If those opportunities are closed to them because it's too expensive to hire them in the first place, they lose out."
Workers already making more than $15 an hour could see their wages stagnate, Morrison said.
"It would be very difficult for an employer to give those individuals a raise, because their overall bottom line is hurt by the minimum wage," Morrison said.
Morrison mentioned his own experience as a business owner.
"I used to run a cleaning and restoration business," he said. "I would usually start an employee who came to me with no prior experience, actually, above minimum wage, about $11 an hour. If they would prove to be capable of doing the job and doing it well, then I would give them an increase. After all, I would not want to lose a good employee to a competitor."
Such a system provides employers with the ability to motivate employees by leveraging salaries, but a minimum wage increase would remove the motivation and the leverage, Morrison said.
"If we artificially raise the floor at the low end, that would make it more difficult for me to pay my more experienced employees more, because there's a limit to what I can pass onto my customers," he said.
Which also explains why a raise in the minimum wage would increase prices for customers, who might decide the price has gotten too high, Morrison said. "Then I have fewer customers and fewer jobs, which then means maybe I don't need as many employees."