You may recall in May 2017, the Board of Trustees voted to temporarily opt-out of the Cook County Ordinances regarding minimum wage and paid sick leave which took effect on July 1st. The Board did this for two reasons: first, a substantially new Village Board was sworn into office at the end of May and the retiring Board chose to refrain from imposing long-range policy decisions on the new Board. It made sense to delay a permanent vote, so that the new Board members could weigh in on this policy decision that would take effect after the new Board was seated.
Also, the Board felt that delaying the vote until the end of 2017 would give the State time to pass a minimum wage bill that was pending in Springfield. Historically, labor issues such as minimum wage and sick leave have been addressed at the State level or even the Federal level. In late May, the State legislature passed a minimum wage bill which then languished on the Governor's desk. Ultimately, the Governor vetoed the bill.
The Western Springs Ordinance opting out of the Cook County mandate recommended the Board revisit this issue should “the Illinois General Assembly fail to adopt a uniform, State-wide minimum wage law, and sick leave law by December 31, 2017.” As a result, the Board is revisiting this issue to come to a decision on the merits of the laws themselves.
The Cook County Ordinances apply to private employers and raised the minimum wage from $8.25/hr to $10/hr on July 1, 2017. The rate increases by $1.00 annually until it reaches $13/hr in July 2020. After 2020, the County minimum wage will be subject to increases based on the Consumer Price Index. The paid sick leave Ordinance mandates that private employers provide each employee with one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, for employees who have worked at least 80 hours within a 120-day period. Employees may carry over to the next year half of their unused, accrued sick leave.
If the sole consideration was simply one of social justice, the Board’s decision would be an easy one. But the Board must weigh the social justice concerns against the practical effect these Ordinances would have on our commercial sector. Neighboring communities would have unfair advantages based solely upon whether or not the town chose to opt-out or whether or not it is located within Cook County. In its Ordinance passed on May 8, 2017, The Western Springs Board found that the “Cook County Ordinance[s]... place an undue and unequal burden on employers within the Village … [and the Ordinances] create and contribute to a burdensome patchwork quilt of regulation and establish an uneven playing field for employers and employees regarding the wages and benefits of employees that is properly a matter of State-wide concern that is outside the power of Cook County to regulate…”
In November 2014, a referendum on the minimum wage question determined that 60% of Western Springs voters supported a State-wide increase to the minimum wage. In November 2016, a referendum on the paid sick leave question showed that 67% of Western Springs voters supported paid sick days, again State-wide.
While it is the duty of the Village Board to fairly represent our residents, it is also the Board’s duty to protect our business community from aggressive government overreach. Many feel the County did not have the legal authority to impose these laws on its municipalities. This is an important consideration when that overreach saddles our business community with additional burdens that neighboring businesses do not face.
The Board must now decide whether a majority of residents support complying with the County Ordinances when the vast majority of neighboring communities have opted out or are not subject to the Cook County Ordinances. As of July 31, 2017, over 80%, or 107 of the 132 Cook County municipalities, chose to opt out of the Ordinances including LaGrange, LaGrange Park, Westchester, Indian Head Park, and the Cook County portions of Hinsdale and Burr Ridge. Countryside has complied with the Ordinances. For a complete list of Cook County communities and their status on this issue click here.
As you can see, these are questions where reasonable minds may differ. If you have an opinion as to whether or not the Board of Trustees should continue to opt out of the Cook County Minimum Wage and Sick Leave Ordinances, please let the Board know by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.