Minimum wage increase could cost students jobs

By Kathleen Foody

A bill proposing the increase of minimum wage to $7.50 is expected to be signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich in the near future, according to a Blagojevich spokesman.

Blagojevich, a strong supporter of the bill, made it one of his major issues in his campaign for re-election, according to The Associated Press. The report also said that Democrats in the national legislature have promised to increase the national minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25.

The Illinois Senate passed the bill on Nov. 16 by a margin of 33-21, mostly along party lines, and the Illinois House approved it Nov. 29, according to a Blagojevich press release.

According to the release, the bill will raise the minimum wage $1 in July 2007. Subsequent increases will follow in July 2008, July 2009 and 2010, raising it to $7.75, $8.00 and $8.25 respectively.

Critics of the bill have claimed that the increase will harm small businesses. Local businesses are already reacting to the potential increases.

Michele Fassett, owner and manager of te shurt, 711 S. Wright St., said the bill has worried her since its introduction. She said the increases will force her to increase prices, especially in the store’s custom clothing shop, and drastically cut the number of students the store employs.

“The sad thing that I feel will have to happen is that I’ll have to hire an all-adult staff,” she said. “We’ll go from 25 part-time student employees to five full-time adults.”

Fassett said the minimum wage raises will also eliminate her ability to reward employees for good work.

“This will make employment everywhere worse,” she said. “If a college student is competing with an adult who has experience, but is willing to work for minimum wage, I’m going to hire the adult with experience.”

Fassett said she fears she may even have to close the store if costs get too high, though it has been owned by her family since 1954.

“This increase is going to price us out of the market,” she said. “I guess the governor missed Economics 101.”