Oak Park could opt out of minimum wage hike

Trustees to consider opting out of county wage increase plan

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Municipalities throughout Chicagoland have spent the last few months deciding whether to opt out of a Cook County ordinance that would impose a graduated minimum wage increase beginning July 1 – but Oak Park has been silent on the issue.

A few days ago, though, representatives on the Oak Park Board of Trustees announced via Facebook that they are planning to discuss the question of opting out at the board's June 19 meeting.

Last year, the county approved a proposal that would increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 beginning in July. That increase would go up a dollar a year until it reaches $13 an hour in 2020. The proposal also requires employers to provide paid sick leave for employees with workers earning one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours on the job.

Trustees Deno Andrews and Dan Moroney have solicited input from constituents on their respective Facebook pages, but both voice reservations about the county proposal.

Andrews, who owns the Oak Park fast-food restaurant Felony Franks, said the change would negatively affect his own business. Andrews said he already pays his employees $10 an hour but noted that if the wage increase goes through "after the 1st of the year I would have to replace staff with technology."

"I've already been getting calls from companies that install ordering kiosks that allow customers to place their own orders," Andrews wrote on Facebook. "These already exist in Europe where the labor costs are traditionally high. So the question is which is better – a higher minimum with fewer people working or a lower market-based wage that puts more people to work? I don't think we can have it both ways."

Moroney said he is "very much in favor of a minimum wage increase" but said it would force small businesses to leave the village or close their doors permanently. He notes that other municipalities in the area – River Forest, Riverside, Maywood, Forest Park and Elmwood Park – have opted out and would put Oak Park at a competitive disadvantage.

"This is not to say that I am in favor of opting out, just that the entire complexity of the issue should be discussed and understood," Moroney wrote. "The business community has advocated that we put this item on the agenda and I am comfortable honoring this request since that is a constituency that shoulders a great portion of the village's revenue."

Andrews and Mororney aren't the only two trustee voicing their opinions on the issue.

Trustee Bob Tucker said in a telephone interview that he is "adamantly opposed" to opting out of the wage hike.

"Opting out runs counter to everything Oak Park stands for," he said. "I'm disappointed that this was even placed on this agenda, and I hope my colleagues would seriously consider pulling this item and letting the minimum wage increase occur."

Meanwhile, advocates for allowing the wage hike to move forward are planning to make their voices heard at the June 19 meeting.

Reverend C.J. Hawking, a pastor at Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church and executive director of Arise Chicago, which has advocated for the paid leave provision and minimum wage hike, said her organization is holding a community meeting at the church, 405 S. Euclid Ave., on Friday, June 16 at 6 p.m., to discuss the wage increase proposal.

The group also will hold a demonstration and press conference at Oak Park Village Hall at 7 p.m. on the night of the board meeting where the issue will be debated.

Hawking said she was disappointed that trustees put the item on the agenda with no time for dialogue with trustees or the mayor. She said the sudden appearance of the agenda item with no official forum for discussion before the meeting "takes away from the democratic process."

She noted that 86 percent of Oak Park voters said in a 2014 nonbinding ballot measure that they approved of a minimum wage increase. Another ballot measure in 2016 on the issue of paid sick leave showed that 87 percent of Oak Park voters approved of requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to their workers.

"If any politician got 87 percent of the vote, they would call it a landslide," she said. "The voters have spoken."

She said it is up to Oak Park voters to determine whether trustees whose businesses would be negatively impacted by the wage increase should recuse themselves from voting on the issue because of a conflict of interest.

"I'm hearing from quite a few people that it is (a conflict of interest)," she said. "It points to a larger picture that we often have business interests represented in our elected officials at a disproportionate number compared to non-business owners."

She said there is no proof that raising the minimum wage would negatively impact the overall business community, adding that the minimum wage increase in Chicago has not cost jobs in Chicago or Illinois.

"Workers should not have to live at poverty wages in order to make a business thrive," she said. "Employers can't have a business plan based on exploitation of its workers."

* This story was updated to include comments from Oak Park Trustee Bob Tucker.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 4:39 PM

Low wage workers have a harder time paying the increased costs. And will be hardest hit by the layoffs and business closures. Whenever bad policy like this is adopted, the marginal are hurt most severely. But I love me a Big Mac.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 3:53 PM

This is what I know...I am constantly in awe every time I go through the McDonald's drive-through or hit Mickiey's. (Yes I am that mom who takes the low road from time to time when I don't want to cook). They both run like well-greased machines. I don't even know if - when I was young and quick -I could take orders from two different lanes, while processing payments and get the order right every time. And Mickey's - it's like they are all telepathically communicating with each other (okay - not really - you know what I mean - good service). I have no problem paying more for SOME goods and services to help cover the cost of raising the minimum wage...but I'm not a small business owner.

Mick McDonnell  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 3:22 PM

I think we have a consensus: The minimum wage should be at least $30/hour in order to give those folks a fighting shot. I demand that the discussion be put back on the agenda so we can challenge the notion that $13/hour is somehow fair/sufficient.

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 3:12 PM

Thank you to Deno who fearlessly created the space, primarily via social media, for the dialogue to even occur. Thank you for soliciting input, and not shying away from a hot topic. (And now saving hours of time of public comment Monday night.)

Kyle P. Eichenberger  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 2:20 PM

Update: The item has been pulled from the agenda at the request of the Trustees. Oak Park will NOT be opting out and will be a part of the Cook Co minimum wage increase. Thank you to the Board and everyone who advocated in the last couple of days!

Nick Polido  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 1:44 PM

The simple solution for all would be for the county to use the soda pop sugar tax (set for July) to fill this gap.....capitalistic pigs and socialist both win....its a win win!

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 1:37 PM

Jenna - Might I add that Teacher Assistants are currently paid between $16.75 to $18.75/hr depending on their experience. I would imagine that such professionals would demand a much higher rate in a town where they used to be paid 2x more than fast food workers. Absolutely no one connected with this or similar movements (Fight for 15) have considered the impact on govt. budgets. Or perhaps they have and just don't care.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 12:58 PM

Yes Jenna Brown Russel show Mr. Mike how that Chavez thingie worked out in Caracas. Hey how about some real money like $60/hr? And your're right: those greedy business owners - sucking the lifeblood out of our precious peoples' republic - have NO right to make a living anyways.

Jenna Brown Russell  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 12:39 PM

@Mike, you are right. But $20/hour doesn't cut it in Oak Park, $30 seems more just. The even greater effect of this is that everyone earning $15-$30/hour now will see a proportional increase as is only fair. We will need to look at 2 tier pricing for daycares, preschool, haircuts, groceries, pool passes, property taxes (these wages include of public sector workers and the selfish taxpayers will have to pony up) because even at those wages, the lowest paid will not be able to afford the increased prices that will need to be charged. Because the greedy business owners keep insisting on making a living as well. I worked in Caracas during Chavez, I'd be delighted to show you how it is accomplished.

Paul Cagnina  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 10:41 AM

The minimum wage jobs Like McDonalds and the small business throughout the Oak Park area are "NOT" carreer jobs. The minimum wage jobs are for the young ( High School Students), summer jobs for college students, the elderly, and those that are in transition to a "CARRER" job. that's going to happen to these people that are only looking for "TEMPORARY" jobs? Basically by raising the minimum wage in Oak Park you're screwing one group to benefit another group. If people were paying attention they would notice as they drive down the street that ever block has a " NOW HIRING" sign. Factory jobs that pay $15 minimum in melrose Park have many. People that say they can't find a decent job in the current economic enviroment are people that don't want jobs. I'm against over paying someone to hand me a coke and a burger. This will only hurt the business owners of Oak Park. I'm for working harder and get more money.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 10:10 AM

LOL @ Mike McDonnell. Well thanks for letting us know how you really think - that third grade taunt about "rubber and glue" seems to come to mind :-)

Mick McDonnell  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 9:48 AM

I am shocked at the selfish tenor of these posts & of the attitude of Mr. Andrews. The question that should be asked is: why $13? You can hardly live on that, and certainly not in Oak Park. Oak Park should go above & beyond what the county has proposed and set a $20/hour minimum wage, and include the sick leave provision. All of you who are arguing against this proposal are disgusting, selfish, money-grubbing corporatists and there is no room for you in this wonderful community.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 9:46 AM

quite honestly, I have not been following this debate and the various alternatives that may have been offered, but I know there has been some occasional discussion about a tiered system - - a lower minimum for younger workers, and/or part-timers - - a higher minimum for older, full-time works who may actually be trying to support families. Are there any exceptions proposed in the current ordinance?

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 1:13 AM

Using a non-binding vote has no basis in this discussion. As it is, 1) non-binding, so it's very easy to say "yes." 2) non-contextual. These kinds of things don't happen in a vacuum. It's a multi-faceted issue and deserves discussion.

Deno J. Andrews  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 7:48 PM

I'd like to clarify something that was quoted above. First, I am very pro labor. I've written in many posts that I am 100% in favor of fair wages for all. The issue is not the minimum wage going up. It's the surprise taxes like the sugary drink tax that causes our drink costs to go up 57% in two weeks. What I have been saying on Facebook is that business owners are being squeezed and there's eventually a breaking point. I already pay employees $10/hr and will always be ahead of the curve as long as I'm in business. But surprise taxes that wipe out profit centers threaten the restaurant industry. This tax will have an affect on local fast food restaurants, and some might have to move or close. Only time will tell. My comments about the dollar/hour/year and how it will hurt is because it is at the same time as the surprise drink tax. Had the surprise beverage tax never been implemented, it would be a completely different story. But that tax seriously impedes my ability to do more for my employees. It virtually killed our ability to give raises this year because consumers will not pay more for soda. I don't object to a higher wage at all. I encourage it. But the county just made it very difficult with the drink tax. I know it's hard to follow threads on Facebook. I felt I should add the proper context for my quotes above.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 6:55 PM

Minimum pay is given to workers with minimum value. Good luck finding a summer job around here if you are a kid trying to get a start. The false narrative that somehow people are supposed to support a robust Oak Park style life by working forever at minimum wage is being twisted into a whole story line by people who never ran a business, but feel they are experts at everything. Opting out of bad ideas others dream up is the only choice.

Kyle P. Eichenberger  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 5:41 PM

This should be such an easy decision for the Board. Keeping us in for raising the minimum wage is what your constituents want, it's the right thing, it upholds our community values. That's the leadership we're looking for.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 4:49 PM

The vast majority of Oak Park voters who voted for the increase in minimum wage no doubt earn far above the minimum wage. The vast majority of Oak Parkers are also NOT small business owners, but professionals and employees of universities and other government entities. I also fall into one of those categories and am also personally unaffected by the proposal. I do, however, have five grown children who all benefited from the experience obtained working minimum wage jobs. It is those jobs that I would hate to see move out of the community.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 4:42 PM

If Deno Andrews has to replace a person with a kiosk, doesn't that defeat the purpose of his business, and it's draw? He employs ex-cons, to give them a second chance. I've been there several times -- as a customer, not an employee. Who wants to give a kiosk any chance at all? But if he can't stay solvent without that, then he must do it. Except that will cost him market share from defeating his purpose, where he's not exactly furnishing a gourmet meal, and can't raise the price, and have only one ex-con working. Taglia runs a frozen yogurt shop, which probably doesn't employ a skilled workforce. Abu-Taleb runs a upscale restaurant that nonetheless must employ a bunch of waitresses, busboys, dishwashers, and janitors, and Moroney owns a business which probably employs some clerical people. It's not like they got themselves into this -- the County did, which in its infinite wisdom, is about to raise your powdered drink mix cost by 140%, and the cost of a Diet Coke by about 40%. Let's pay for County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to go take an Economics 101 course at Wright Junior College, and see if she passes.

Marilyn McManus  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 4:16 PM

I agree with Rev. Hawking that the people of Oak Park spoke at the ballot box when they answered the question on raising the minimum wage. Our village trustees whose personal businesses may be effected, need to follow the choices already made by their constituency. They (the trustees) need to begin to consider the values of the people who live in Oak Park. Most of us are willing to give up some personal gain for the greater good of ALL of us.

Henry Fulkerson  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 4:05 PM

I encourage everyone to do the following: WE NEED EVERYONE TO EMAIL Oak Park Trustees and Mayor 1. Email all trustees at board@oak-park.us Our goal is for them to take it off the agenda, which gets formally set on Friday afternoon for the following Monday Village Board meeting. We have 22 hours to make this happen! Your one email will reach all trustees and the mayor! It will take you one minute! PLEASE EMAIL THEM NOW! Thank you, thank you, thank you! 2. Join us on Friday, June 16 at 6pm at Euclid Ave. United Methodist Church, 405 S. Euclid, Oak Park, where we will provide pizza and discussion. Come at 5:45pm to get your first choice of pizza. We'll start at 6:00 sharp and plan to end at 7:15pm. We will still meet, even if items about workers' rights has been removed from the agenda. 3. Should it be taken off the agenda, we will still hold a 7pm press conference on Monday, June 19 at Village Hall and still attend the 7:30pm Village Hall meeting, to thank the trustees and mayor for keeping workers' rights in Oak Park. 4. 2. Sign the petition http://arisechicago.nationbuilder.com/wfc_oak_park Let's be sure our trustees know that the workers in Oak Park deserve their dignity! Thank you all so very much!

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 3:30 PM

Mean while, back at the ranch, there are two board members who own and operate businesses here in Oak Park who will vote for a pay raise for other workers, and will exempt themselves for paying raises for their employees.

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