By Igor Studenkov | For the Bugle
Four weeks after Village of Morton Grove Board of Trustees tabled the final vote on whether to opt out of Cook County minimum wage increases and sick leave mandate, the issue appeared before them again.
Since that meeting, both chambers Illinois General Assembly passed its own minimum wage increase, sending the bill to governor Bruce Rauner’s desk. Elected officials, residents and community activists – many of whom spoke during the May 22 meeting – urged the village board to vote against the up-out, or, at the very least, table it again until the governor either approves the state hike or vetoes it. But the trustees decided to proceed with opting out anyway, with most of them arguing that, until the state does pass a minimum wage increase, municipalities that stick with the increase will be put at a competitive disadvantage.
In October 2016, as previously reported by the Bugle, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance that would gradually increase the minimum wage over the next three years from the current Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. On July 1, 2017, it will increase to $10 an hour. It will then increase to $11 an hour in July 2018, $12 an hour in July 2019 and $13 an hour in July 2020.
The Illinois General Assembly bill, which was sent to the governor’s desk on May 31, would increase the minimum wage to $9.00 by Jan. 1, 2018. It would increase to $10 in 2019, $11.25 in 2020, $13 in 2021 and $15 in hour from 2022 onward. The ordinance explicitly makes an exception for employees under the age of 18. As with the current law, employees that receive a portion of their income from tips would be paid less.
If the state law passes, it would automatically apply whether the municipalities opt out of the Cook County ordinance or not. However, because home rule entities have a power to raise their minimum wage above state minimum, the higher county wages would still apply for the first few years for municipalities that haven’t opted out. But as the state minimum wage continues to increase past 2020, the now-higher state minimum wage would supplant the county’s.
The county-paid sick leave ordinance, which the county board approved on Oct. 5, 2016, requires employers to give any employees that worked at least 80 hours within a 120 day period one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. They may not earn more than 40 hours per year. Like the minimum wage ordinance, it will take effect on July 1, 2017, the same date as a similar City of Chicago ordinance takes effect.
The Morton Grove Village Board was scheduled to cast the final opt-out vote on May 22. But trustee Bill Grear moved to table it because, as he later told the Bugle, he wanted to give the state more time to settle the issue.
During the June 12 meeting, Cook County commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-13th) urged the board to table the ordinance once again.
“I believe that we need to put pressure on the governor to make sure he signs it,” he said. “[State minimum wage increase] is what we all said we wanted. I ask you to consider deferring again, to see what action the governor takes on this.”
Resident Janice Cha argued that workers who don’t earn enough to take care of their families benefit from state and federal services, which means that, in essence, corporations paying their workers less amounts to corporations taking advantage of taxpayer funds.
Resident Naushira Rahman made a similar argument, saying that, in her own experience as a teacher, she encountered many low-income kids who get free or reduced lunches, and other forms of assistance.
“Their parents work, their parents work a lot, but they’re unable to come to schools and meet needs of the children, and their children certainly can’t take part in extracurricular activities,” she said. “Please, let those parents earn enough money so they don’t have to get handouts from government.”
Kathleen McGrath, the Regional Human Resources Business Partner at Morton Grove based John Crane Inc, said that her employer has no problem with minimum wage increases, since it pays above current minimum wage already, but it did oppose the sick leave mandate. As she explained, it feels that calculating what employees are owned would take up too much time and resources.
“It’s complicated and its burden to our employer to let us go through this headache,” McGrath said.
As the trustees prepared to vote, trustee John Thill, the only trustee to vote against tabling the motion back in May 22, said he had an issue with minimum wage in general. He said that he wanted employees to be able to bay based on how good they were at their job.
Trustee Janine Witko said that she supported a minimum wage increase – just not on the local level.
“Yes, I’m one of 75 percent that thinks minimum wage should be raised, but it should be done at state level,” she said. “That [would] make it equable. “
Trustee Rita Minx said she struggled with it, but ultimately, she also believed that the minimum wage should be raised on state or federal level.
“I believe in whole heart in raising minimum wage, because its moral and wright thing to do,” she said. “If we vote to raise minimum wage, we are enabling federal government and state government to abdicate their responsibility to residents.”
Mayor Dan DiMaria said that he wasn’t convinced the Cook County version of minimum wage increase wasn’t a right way to address the issue.
“This is a poor legislation that also creates poor economic [conditions], and it isn’t the right thing for Morton Grove at this point at time,” he said.