The Village Board of Oak Park has decided to consider a proposed living wage ordinance. We thank them.

In the article covering the meeting, Wednesday Journal reported that four years ago a previous board had rejected a proposed living wage. Not true. After disregarding a ballot referendum where 60% of Oak Park voters endorsed a living wage, the village board assigned the Community Relations Commission (CRC) to study the impact that such an ordinance would have on Oak Park.

That original referendum was not only approved, it carried 93% of our election precincts. This was enough of a mandate that the Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice had signs printed that proclaimed: “LIVING WAGE = OAK PARK VALUES.”

After 13 months of study, the CRC presented their study and recommendations to the village board. The CRC voted 7 to 2 in support of a living wage ordinance.

Village Trustee Ray Johnson immediately proposed that the board accept the report but strip the recommendations. This was seconded by Trustee Jon Hale. Trustees John Hedges and Jan Pate followed Ray and Jon down this anti-democratic rabbit hole. That village board did not reject the proposed ordinance; they rejected democratic process.

As pointed out by Trustee Colette Lueck, the conversation around a living wage has changed. What seemed distasteful to our elected officials a few years ago has been given new life by the current village board.

This month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a report on the U.S. economy. To “fortify the country’s economic future, the policy focus should be to undertake more pro-active labor market policies that lower long-term unemployment and raise participation; increase the minimum wage while strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit; invest in infrastructure.”

The IMF calls for policy reforms. Even local governing bodies can fight poverty with living wage ordinances. In Oak Park, we believe that to be a minimum of $15/hr. Our proposed ordinance would cover: All village employees; the employees of companies contracted or sub-contracted by the village; the employees of companies that receive $50,000 or more per year from the village coffers for any reason.

We urge the board to consider that three public hearings on the living wage ordinance were held by the CRC. These meetings included the Oak Park business community. In our view, the decision at this point is primarily a matter of political will, not lack of information, analysis (which simply needs a bit of updating which village staff can easily do), or feedback.

It is well past time for the village to simply craft and implement an ordinance as soon as possible. We believe there is no reason that we cannot have an Oak Park living wage in effect within, at most, the next three months.

Ron Baiman, Sydney Baiman, Bill Barclay, Tom Broderick, Paul Sakol, Julie Samuels, Hilda Schlatter, Gary Schwab, Sandra Shimon, Bob Simpson

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