Minimum wage pulled from Oak Park board agenda

Residents flood trustees with opposition to opting out of county laws

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

An outcry from residents over Oak Park potentially opting out of minimum wage increase imposed by Cook County has prompted Trustee Deno Andrews to pull the item from the agenda of Monday night's board meeting.

Andrews and Trustee Dan Moroney began discussing the issue earlier this week on Facebook, noting that it would be addressed by the board at its weekly meeting set for June 19.

Reached by phone, Moroney said Andrews originally requested that the issue be discussed by the board. Moroney explained he seconded the request, because in order for an issue to be taken up by the board two trustees must make the request.

The county ordinance requires the minimum wage to increase to $10 an hour on July 1, and then an additional dollar every year until it reached $13 in 2020. It also requires employers to allow hourly employees to accrue up to five days of paid sick leave.

Andrews said in a telephone interview that he originally requested to have the item placed on the agenda to give business owners the opportunity to discuss the issue.

"I don't believe there would be a single vote (on the board) to opt out, but it doesn't negate the inherent issues with the law and how it would affect local businesses," he said.

Andrews said he felt the public "misconstrued our wanting to discuss it as wanting to opt out and that wasn't the case."

Andrews said he discussed the issue with various business owners over the last few weeks, noting, "I didn't meet a single business owner that was against higher wages for their employees."

He said their concern was about high sales taxes, increasing property taxes and the so-called sugary drink tax that is being imposed by the county.

"It's an issue about overall taxation," he said.

Moroney said he likely would have not voted to opt out of the county wage hike, but said that the topic merited discussion.

He said Cathy Yen, executive director of the Oak Park Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to board members last week requesting that the issue be placed on the agenda, because a survey showed 70 percent of Oak Park business owners who will be affected by the legislation opposed the wage increase.

He said Andrews put in a request last night to have the agenda item pulled.

That's after a flood of opposition from Oak Park residents, according to Trustee Bob Tucker, who said earlier this week that he adamantly opposed opting out.

"Honestly, I think the outpouring of comments from Oak Parkers to the village board made them reconsider whether or not they should move forward with this," Tucker said in a telephone interview. "I think the community spoke loud and clear on this, and it's a big win for Oak Park and Oak Park values."

Tucker said hundreds of emails were sent to the board calling on elected officials to stick with the wage hike.

"I was thrilled to see that reaction, because I never wanted it on the agenda to begin with," Tucker said.

Moroney said he believes some businesses in Oak Park will have to lay off some workers or close their doors entirely once the wage hike takes effect.

"I was fine if it was kept on [the agenda]," he said, adding, "I think it would have been a little bit of a circus [at the board meeting] I wasn't looking forward to."

Trustee Simone Boutet said in a telephone interview that she also had requested the item be placed on the agenda for discussion, but only to find out more about the county ordinance and what effect it would have on businesses in Oak Park.

Boutet said she and some others on the board were unaware of the issue until a story was published on the topic in Wednesday Journal.

Although the item was placed on the agenda for discussion, Boutet said, "I don't think the intent was ever to opt out."

* This story was updated to include comments from Deno Andrews.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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John Donat from Oak Park  

Posted: June 21st, 2017 10:02 PM

James Peters.. Things have changed since I worked for McDonalds in the 70's and 80s. The folks working there were indeed the seniors wanting a few $$ and the kids starting working. Many of the people now working for places like McDonalds used to have good paying jobs. These good paying jobs with benefits have vanished, either by business closures or by moving them somewhere else. It's not that these folks lack drive or skills, it's that if you're working like crazy for $8.75/hr you have no time or $$ to go to something like community college or somewhere else to learn new skills. Try grossing $18000.00/yr and then finding the $$ for school, or much else than existing. If we can finally get folks working again at something approaching a living wage, then, yes they can learn new skills and possibly get a higher paying job. Until we quit shedding jobs, or cutting wages and benefits to "enhance shareholder value", we will still be having this conversation years from now.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: June 20th, 2017 12:51 PM

The compassion and concern supposedly shown by Oak Park is narrowed solely to the worker. If wages rise to $15 an hour profits drop. However if profits drop then stock holders get less of a return on their investment if the stock holders are say retired, living off of a fixed income dependent on a profit check, they will suffer. It would seem to me that the residents and government who promote this should go hand and hand and develop a gofundme page, insurance policy or tax themselves extra to take care of the workers, business owners and share holders who might get hurt. That would be a social justice compassionate response from all involved to any and all who maybe be injured. if the fund isnt used return it to the holders.

Jim Bowman  

Posted: June 20th, 2017 11:28 AM

Grimly appropriate comment on restaurants and mandatory wage, http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article155979969.html. "The result of one early experiment in a citywide $15 minimum wage is an ominous sign for the state's poorer inland counties as the statewide wage floor creeps toward the mark. Consider San Francisco, an early adopter of the $15 wage. It's now experiencing a restaurant die-off, minting jobless hash-slingers, cashiers, busboys, scullery engineers and line cooks as they get pink-slipped in increasing numbers. And the wage there hasn't yet hit $15." Zowie. No wonder Trustee Deno, wannabe job-opening supplier for ex-cons, in addition to being a restaurateur. Story is"Restaurant die-off is first course of California's $15 minimum wage." Data confirms it. Repent, ye progressives!

James Peters from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2017 9:18 AM

A minimum wage law has winners and losers. WINNERS: Those who lack skills or the drive to acquire skills to move them to better jobs. LOSERS: Those at the bottom rung of work careers. That goes beyond teens flipping burgers who learn a work ethic. Consider minimally paid internships that help launch some students into career paths. LOSERS: Older workers who just want to make a few bucks. I did $10/hr job a few years back and although the wage was a "pittance" (as some of the elite commenters have said), it worked for me at the time. LOSERS: Entrepreneurs, small businesses. Big chains already have automated kiosks and on-line ordering systems, but the investment for smaller businesses may be too much. That the board won't even discuss these factors shows someone's political clout.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2017 9:29 PM

Yes Bruce, some of our comrades around here seem to think that they have the right to control other people's lives. Evil local businessmen this time and kids trying to get a starter job. It seems a mob of voted and sorry, your business needs to lose money now because that is what we were feeling that day. But we don't hate business because this is a hate free zone.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 18th, 2017 8:20 PM

Hey Tom, I'm waiting for the next shoe to drop in our People's Republic: the Maximum Wage!

Jack Davidson  

Posted: June 18th, 2017 7:19 PM

I tend to agree that it's odd that the item was removed from the agenda. I hope this new era of Facebook transparency doesn't create an issue for trustees and public officials by essentially having sidebar conversations that affect outcomes.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2017 6:22 PM

Everyone will buy stuff online or drive to neighboring communities to shop and dine. A couple hundred emails from a town of 50,000 people is not something that should sway the board to destroy the local economy.

Leslie Roberts from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2017 3:24 PM

Did everyone suddenly forget that Fight for $15 pleaded with the VOP board at least twice to raise the minimum wage in Oak Park and the trustees let their VOP lawyer find something to get them off the hook even though, another suburb took action. Yes, there were speeches by ministers who brought their congregants and speeches by fast food chain workers and marches with signs on Madison, and then those same speakers, made public comments during the VOP board meetings. The victims of oppression spoke about their suffering situations and their supporters spoke of ethics and values of Oak Parkers.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 9:10 PM

Bruce, consider it all a repertory theater cast. It's the same limited set of actors, in different roles as time elapses. When Abu-Taleb defeated John Hedges, whom did he appoint to head the Oak Park Development Corporation, as it was then called? John Hedges. Abu-Taleb ran against the VMA, but really was the VMA on steroids. He just didn't want to wait his turn, and pushed his way to the front of the line. Normally, the VMA makes you labor in the vineyards for years, and tests your loyalty. But Abu-Taleb was impatient, and had the money to beat a withered organization. Yet his key problem is that he doesn't have a deep bench -- he has to recycle candidates from the discard pile, for his appointments. Abu-Taleb is a one-man band -- he couldn't field a full slate this last April. In a way, he is our own home-grown Donald Trump -- as epitomized by Marc Stopeck's cartoon of him as Napoleon on a horse. I have another favorite painting of Napoleon on a horse -- retreating in the Winter from Russia, with the tattered remnants of his Grande Armee.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 8:14 PM

Kevin: Wow. That's classic "Chicago Way" .... like right outa Royko's BOSS. Cool!

Kline Maureen  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 7:22 PM

oops, sorry, it was Peter Barber who was on the OPEDC, Now newly elected trustee Dan Moroney has been appointed to take his place http://www.oakpark.com/Community/Blogs/6-8-2017/Oak-Park-Trustee-Moroney-named-to-OPEDC-board/

Kline Maureen  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 7:20 PM

Perhaps I'm mistaken but I think Glen Brewer was also the village board representative on the OPEDC.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 6:37 PM

Now that we finally have Monday's agenda posted we see that the Albion proposal for an 18 story high rise will be forwarded to the Plan Commission. And guess what? Glenn Brewer, the VMA guy who was just rejected by the voters for a third term as Trustee, and came in dead last, will also be appointed to the Plan Commission. It's still the same good old boy network, regardless of what the voters just said.

Leslie Roberts from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 12:46 PM

Kyle: Thank you for providing the link to the actual Cook County ordinance. Should good business plans include oppression of workers? Why did Charles Dickens write all those books? Is there enough demand for a product to continue a business and the risk that owners have decided to accept? Is it okay to continue to sell a product with a big mark-up that has been proven to harm consumers' health when plain water is available? To avoid paying the sugar drink tax -- stop selling the product that is heavily taxed. Every business plan needs to be reviewed and adapted to change periodically. I have to go back and read why towns are allowed to opt out of a law. If all towns can opt out is it really a law? Can I opt out of paying the portion of federal income tax that goes to Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and Lockheed Martin for war weapon contracts? Seems like we are about to sell the products of the top .01% to Saudi Arabia and to Qatar at the same time, thereby support both sides of a new war between these two countries. May I opt out? See you at the voting booth.

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 12:26 PM

Kyle, The desire to pull it off the agenda occurred days before, not at the last minute before the agenda needed (per the OMA) to be publicly posted. That's what my original comment was referring to. I'm sorry for the confusion.

Kyle P. Eichenberger  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 7:54 AM

Brian: https://www.cookcountyil.gov/service/minimum-wage-ordinance

Kyle P. Eichenberger  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 7:46 AM

Bridgett, in the end a majority of trustees came out and said they weren't going to vote to opt out anyway even if it was on the agenda. (By the way, the "circus" language wasn't mine. It was one of the trustees.) I'm not trying to argue against the public dialogue you're asking for. Just saying that they saved a bunch of people a lot of wasted time on Monday evening. I thought that was helpful to busy people who may not want to go sit through an unnecessary board meeting.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: June 17th, 2017 2:19 AM

Someone please clarify. I thought the proposed Cook County law would only apply to workers doing contract work for government agencies?

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 10:44 PM

Yes, what Anne said. Facebook is never to be a replacement for an official public forum. And Kyle, what do you mean by "unnecessary circus atmosphere?" It's a dismissive tone that I don't think is helpful. Lastly, the only reason why there was even a robust discussion, however imperfect it has been, is because Deno and Dan moved to put it on the agenda in the first place. None of the discussion would have happened, unless they #1) asked for it to be put on the agenda, #2) openly and boldly told people that it was going to be on the agenda, and earnestly asked for feedback. They were giving people an opportunity to be a part of a discussion that never would have happened unless they made the move in the first place to put in on the agenda, nor used their social media platforms to inform people that that was what was going to happen. July 1st would have come and gone, and no conversation would have happened. And still, no official conversation has happened. I don't think that's good for our community.

Kyle P. Eichenberger  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 9:16 PM

Anne, I can totally appreciate if somebody still wants to speak their piece. I've seen several people say they want to give non-agenda public comment on Monday. Maybe what we need is a future opportunity for dialogue between the small businesses (who we want to support!) and the public to openly discuss how we can support each other?

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 9:07 PM

The scheduled increase in the minimum wage is the least that should be done. It has been years since there has been an increase. After the initial bump the rate only goes up a dollar a year. The idea that a part time worker does not need the increase is ridiculous. What is the point of working if take home is a pittance. There has been plenty of discussion not only on FB but in the media for years.

Anne Pezalla from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 8:24 PM

Kyle- as you know, I value a good Facebook discussion. That said, it is unfair and unrealistic for that to take the place of a true public forum. While I do feel that my plight is now better understood by Oak Parkers, I'm still very disappointed that the small business community has been swept aside. This will be a tough year for all of us. (I own Lively Athletics on Oak Park Ave).

Kyle P. Eichenberger  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 5:45 PM

Bridgett, I don't think anybody was avoiding a discussion. In fact, there's been a pretty robust and healthy debate going on via several of the trustee pages. It became clear how large the support for the increase was and most of the board said they weren't planning on voting opt-out anyway. There was a very real possibility of an unnecessary circus atmosphere at the meeting. Members of the business community have had a chance to meet with individual trustees--as they should. We should keep talking...I've found a majority of the trustees and several small business owners very willing to engage in conversation. This was pulled from the agenda *after* discussion, not to squash it.

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 5:08 PM

I am confused at the desire to take the item off the agenda in the first place. Saying that opposing the increase "runs counter to everything Oak Park stands for" while at the same time attempting to squash discussion? I thought Oak Park (not that I would speak for all 50,000 residents and 100s of business owners) stands for open, thoughtful, meaningful, respectful dialogue. I think one can be very passionate about their views, while allowing others to express their views. This notion that if you disagree with something then we shouldn't discuss it at all, is, in my opinion, more of a concern than this specific issue at hand. Are we not strong enough of a community to withstand such discussions?

Ben DeBruin from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 4:45 PM

I find it funny that board members and the Wednesday Journal know that this has been pulled from the agenda for Monday's meeting, but it is nearly 5 pm on Friday and an agenda still is not publicly posted on the Village's website yet.

Neal Buer  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 4:36 PM

Kimberly, you are absolutely correct. I love it when the government, who has no skin in the game, and citizens, who work in the public sector, dictate to owners their desires. It costs them nothing to take your money. The faux moral outrage is free.

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 4:20 PM

Deno couldn't be reached for comment? This story was posted online at 3:41 pm. Deno posted a lengthy and thoughtful statement on his Trustee Facebook page at 3:23 pm.

Kimberly Humphrey from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 4:19 PM

Here's what I WOULD have expressed at the meeting if this stayed on the Agenda. Arguments in favor of raising minimum wage tend to fall into, what I call, the fish logic: all fish live in water, therefore all things in water are fish. Or, all people who work at an hourly rate are working full-time supporting a family. In fact, many people work at an hourly rate, part-time, because it fits into their schedule while providing some additional income. As a small business owner for the past 5 years, I would love to pay my employees $13 an hour (or more!), but then I'd like to make that much myself. Assuming a 40 hour work week (which would also be nice) I'm now making about $5 per hour. By the time the County wage becomes $13 an hour I hope to have finished paying the investors who contributed monies that allowed me to purchase the business. From a strictly financial perspective, it makes more sense to close the business, finish paying the investors and get a job (at minimum wage) to finish paying any remaining debts. As a family with a house in Oak Park, we really could use the income. We have children, taxes, medical bills, house repairs (we need a new roof, and there's that bathroom thing), so . . . . I'm sure that someone working full-time supporting a family needs to make more than minimum wage, but forcing that rate on all employers is backwards logic. What it WILL do is force some businesses to re-think the value of staying in business. Thanks for the opportunity to share. Kim Humphrey, owner, Bead in Hand in the Oak Park Arts District.

Judith Warren from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 4:14 PM

This: Moroney said he believes some businesses in Oak Park will have to lay off some workers or close their doors entirely once the wage hike takes effect. ??

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