Retailers say minimum wage hike an “open invitation to move”

Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki.

OPPOSE INCREASE–The Illinois Retail Merchants Association held a news conference on Monday in Springfield about their opposition to the bill increasing the state’s minimum wage. Don Welge, president and CEO of Gilster-Mary Lee, a family and privately held food manufacturer headquartered in Chester, is pictured speaking at the conference and holding up a box of macaroni and cheese, which he said could become a money-losing product for his company if the minimum wage increase legislation becomes law. 

By: Jerry Nowicki

Capitol News Illinois

A group of downstate business owners on Monday warned of dire consequences should a $15 per-hour minimum wage hike which passed the Senate last week become law without changes. 

Several members of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association spoke of layoffs, businesses leaving the state and cutbacks in staff benefits, while advocating for a plan that would make the minimum wage rate $4 lower per hour in downstate counties than in Chicago.

“Treating the rest of the state as if it has the same strengths as Chicago is simply illogical,” Rob Karr, IRMA’s president and CEO, said. “No one else has 55 million visitors a year.” 

Karr said two-thirds of Illinois’ population is within a 40-minute drive to bordering states, which could cause shoppers to spend their money elsewhere. Don Welge, president and CEO of Gilster-Mary Lee, a family and privately held food manufacturer headquartered in Chester, said businesses will begin doing the same. 

“It’s just an open invitation to move operations out of the state of Illinois,” Welge said. 

Welge said Illinois already has higher workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance rates than surrounding states, costing $600 more per employee annually than in Missouri. 

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