$15 minimum wage plan has some Illinois businesses looking across the river

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MOLINE, Illinois -- The Illinois State Senate is expected to consider a bill this week to raise the minimum wage in the state to $15 an hour. The years-long effort is poised to pass with Democrats controlling both chambers of the legislature and the governorship.

For Rebecca Burns, owner of The Shameless Chocoholic, it would be a bitter pill to swallow.

The store came to Moline just a little more than a year ago and Burns, who also owns a retail store of the same name in LeClaire, Iowa, says she might have to take her business back to Iowa if that happens.

"I may look at going back to Iowa or I would have to look at going more automated, and cut down on my staff, which is going to take jobs away from people in the area, which kind of defeats the purpose of raising the minimum wage," she says.

On Tuesday morning, she and a worker were busy dipping chips in chocolate at her Moline chocolate shop. Caramels, toffees and fudges are made on site here for both stores.

It’s a process that requires lots of labor, so a minimum wage hike would directly impact her bottom line, she says.

"The cost of the labor that into our product is going to affect the cost of our product," she says.

"We are already a high-end chocolate, we are already $25 per pound." Burns fears that will put her products out of her customers' price range.

"If you raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, that cost has to be passed on and it's going to be passed on to the consumer and if I don't pass it on, then that puts a huge dent in my business as far as my income and my cash flow," she explains.

Burns says she values her employees and already pays her workers $10 an hour to start, well above the Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 an hour.

But to have to nearly double that would be tough on business.

Paul Rumler with the Quad cities Chamber of Business says Burns isn’t the only business owner opposed to the increase.

The Quad Cities Chamber surveyed a couple hundred of its business members with locations in Illinois, and 86 percent said that there would be negative impacts on their business if the minimum wage bill passed. In that same survey, eighty-two percent opposed raising the minimum wage to $15.

With both chambers of the Illinois state legislature and the governorship in Democratic hands, the plan is poised to make headway in this session. Rumler says the chamber is working with legislators to find some middle ground with a tiered system.

"Chicago’s cost of living is different than in the Quad Cities, so I could see a situation where the minimum wage would be different," he says.

Back at her shop, Burns says she agrees it's not fair Quad Cities' businesses would have to pay the same as Chicago ones. And she says it's not just the payroll increase: With it come the payroll taxes.

"I could just go right across to Bettendorf, across the bridge, and not have the same issues here. I love this area, I love being in Illinois, but in the end, it comes down to what’s best for my business and what my business can afford," she says.

 

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