Not all welcome minimum wage changes

By Lark Lewis

Some local businesses owners are concerned about the possibility of a statewide minimum wage increase.

States like Michigan and Massachusetts are proposing a minimum wage increase, and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has shown some approval of an increase. The wage increase would affect employees and business owners.

Illinois’ minimum wage is $8.25 per hour, and the proposal in Springfield is to bump up the minimum wage to $10 per hour over four years, according to a Chicago Sun-Times article.

“The [minimum wage] increase will affect me in a way. I don’t want to see it go to $10 or $11 per hour,” said Dean Prokos, Tom & Jerry’s restaurant co-owner.

Prokos owns Tom & Jerry’s, 215 W. Lincoln Highway, with his brother and said he has four part-time employees who earn minimum wage. If minimum wage increases to more than $9 per hour, Prokos would have to increase the pay of full-time employees, he said.

“The base of my employees are college kids; they aren’t working for longevity,” Prokos said. “I spend three to six weeks training them and within a year they are gone.”

Prokos said people working for minimum wage are important to the food industry and should be able to grow within their jobs.

“One of my managers is an NIU college grad and making well over minimum wage,” Prokos said.

Nothing is in the process of becoming final as far as Illinois’ minimum wage increase goes, but DeKalb Mayor John Rey is taking time to look into how the change would impact the city.

“I’d like to be able to study our current wage structure to determine what the effects would be,” Rey said.

Mel Witmer, owner of O’Leary’s Restaurant and Pub, 260 E. Lincoln Highway, opposes the wage increase because the country is still dealing with the effects of a recession.

“The economy’s still recovering, and if you keep adding increases in payroll we’re not able to add increases into our prices,” said Witmer, owner of O’Leary’s Restaurant and Pub, 260 E. Lincoln Highway. “Small businesses also are absorbing payroll tax increases.”

Witmer, who also employs college students, said a minimum wage increase puts strain on businesses’ financial stability.

“I don’t think that there’s enough upside to what’s happening to the economy in terms of sales, and it adds to the challenge of operating a business,” Witmer said.