State Journal Register: Local employers, workers weigh effect of minimum wage increase

By Brenden Moore
State Journal-Register, Feb 10, 2019 

After years of working various jobs in retail and food service, Springfield resident Laquesha Russell last year found her calling as a home health aide for Help at Home. ... Russell, along with 1.4 million low-wage workers in Illinois — or about 23 percent of the state’s workforce — could be in line for a raise in the coming years as state lawmakers debate raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. ...

Amazon set its starting rate for U.S. workers at $15 per hour last year. In a tweet congratulating the Illinois Senate for passing the bill last week, the e-commerce giant noted that after they announced their wage increase the number of new applicants for jobs with the company tripled. Target raised its starting wage to $12 in 2018 and has indicated it plans to raise it to $15 by 2020. ...

Mark Forinash, who employs 17 people between downtown’s Cafe Moxo and Cafe Moxo Too (inside the Springfield Clinic on Sixth Street), said he has paid his employees over $15 per hour for many years. This, he said, was a concerted effort to pay a “liveable wage” so his employees can have family time and time away from work.

“One of the reasons we pay the wages that we do is directly reflected in the product quality that you get, the time and heart and energy that these employees put into it,” Forinash said. “Them not having to work second jobs to make ends meet is important to us because we have their undivided attention during the day. They’re not tired, they’re not worn out, they’re fully rested. So nobody has to work a second job unless they choose to do so.”

Forinash, who said about 75 percent of his employees have been with Cafe Moxo for more than five years, said a higher level of service comes inevitably with a higher wage and better benefits as employees are more vested in the business and its success.

And this is why customers won’t be seeing touchscreens for taking orders in the restaurant anytime soon.

“If you look online and you look at any of our reviews on TripAdvisor, we’ve been the number one or two ranked restaurant in Springfield for 11 or 12 years now,” Forinash said. “And that’s built upon service and food quality. I can’t do one without the other. So I can’t provide good service if you’re having to key it in to a keyboard.” ...

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