Chicago City Council Votes 36-10 to End Tipped Minimum Wage

A server working in a restaurant. (WTTW News)A server working in a restaurant. (WTTW News)

The Chicago City Council voted 36-10 to require all Chicago businesses to pay their workers the same minimum hourly wage, regardless of whether they earn tips, by July 2028, handing Mayor Brandon Johnson and the progressive political coalition that elected him a major legislative victory.

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Chicago joins Alaska, California, Guam, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C., in ending the tipped minimum wage.

“Our families deserve to go to work, make a minimum wage, have financial sustainability,” said 26th Ward Ald. Jessie Fuentes, the lead author of the proposal. “Stability is what we are talking about here today.”

The measure approved by the City Council represents a compromise between Johnson and the Illinois Restaurant Association that will give restaurants five years to prepare for the end of the tipped minimum wage on July 1, 2028, while giving servers and other workers who earn gratuities annual 8% raises starting July 1, 2024.

Chicago’s minimum wage for most workers rose to $15.80 per hour on July 1, an increase of 40 cents, to keep pace with inflation.

The minimum hourly wage for employees of large Chicago businesses who earn tips rose by 48 cents on July 1 to $9.48 per hour, officials said. If a worker’s tips are not sufficient to cover the gap between employees’ wages and the city’s minimum wage, employers are required to make up the difference.

Alds. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward), Nicole Lee (11th Ward), Marty Quinn (13th Ward), Matt O’Shea (19th Ward), Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), Nicholas Sposato (38th Ward), Samantha Nugent (38th Ward), Anthony Napolitano (41st Ward), Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) and Jim Gardiner (45th Ward) voted no.

Most of those alderpeople represent wards that border suburbs, and said they were concerned the plan will hurt efforts to attract new restaurants to their wards, where business owners will not have to pay their employees the same minimum hourly wage as those who do not get tips.

Alds. Anthony Beale (9th Ward) and Bill Conway (34th Ward) were not present at Friday’s special City Council meeting, called after an error by City Clerk Anna Valencia prevented a vote from taking place on Wednesday as originally scheduled. Ald. Bennett Lawson (44th Ward) did not cast a vote.

Supporters of the proposal called on the City Council to protect workers who rely on tips because they are more vulnerable to sexual harassment, wage theft and abuse than other employees.

The vote is a major victory for Johnson, whose campaign platform called for an end to the tipped minimum wage, noting that those who rely on tips to earn a living wage are more likely to be Black and Latina women. Johnson was endorsed by the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois, which is part of the national campaign to end the tipped minimum wage known as One Fair Wage.

The restaurant industry is the largest employer of Chicagoans age 16 to 24, and Johnson and his allies believe raising their wages could reduce homelessness and crime throughout the city.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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