FILE - Tip jar, tips, restaurant workers

When a 2018 Department of Labor rule threatened to allow employers, managers or supervisors to collect and keep a portion of employees' tips, members of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found their organization advocating harder than ever.

“We wanted to make sure the tips were kept in the hands of workers,” Ali Baker of ROC United in Illinois said.

The Department of Labor backed off the proposal. However, in case it comes back in the future, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a new bill into law stating all tips must be paid directly to employees within two weeks of being earned.

"People in the various service industries work hard for their money and in many cases, such as for restaurant servers, tips make up an important part of the overall compensation," Michael Kleinik, director of the Illinois Department of Labor, said in a news release. "This law leaves no doubt that gratuities belong to the workers who earned them."

The issue is particularly important to downstate workers, Baker said.

“It’s more important in those rural areas that workers get to keep their hands on their own tips,” she said. “$6.40 an hour is not a living wage.”

Restaurant groups have said paying a higher rate of $9, $12 or $15 an hour will bankrupt the industry.

Moving forward, Baker said ROC United is working to see wages increased across the restaurant industry.