Oak Park residents earning minimum wage could see bigger paychecks in July if the Oak Park Board of Trustees chooses to not opt out of a new wage hike imposed by Cook County.
The increase, mandated by the Cook County Board, would raise the hourly wage from $8.25 to $10 beginning July 1 and one dollar every year until the wage reaches $13, but municipalities are given the ability to opt out.
Several suburban municipalities around Oak Park already have done so, but there has been no clear interest in opting out from members of the Oak Park Board of Trustees, according to Village Manager Cara Pavlicek.
Pavlicek said in early June that there has been no request from board members to bring up the issue. Considering that the village approved a minimum wage ordinance last August, said Pavlicek, “I don’t know if I would expect” a request at this point.
“I guess it’s possible, but I haven’t heard anything,” she said.
That minimum wage ordinance approved by the village in 2016 sets the limit at $12 an hour, but it only applies to village employees and the employees of companies with contracts with the village of more than $25,000 a year.
Neighboring towns that already have opted out of the county ordinance include Elmwood Park, River Forest, Riverside and Maywood. North Riverside is expected to opt out later this month.
The Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of Oak Park businesses in May, showing that, of the 284 businesses that responded, 49 percent support the wage increase, 43 percent oppose and 8 percent were uncertain.
The survey also showed that businesses with more employees were more likely to oppose the county minimum wage increase. Businesses with one to five employees approved of the increase, while the majority of those with more than five employees supported opting out.
It also revealed that “the three industries that favored Oak Park opting out of the county wage ordinance represent 35 percent of the businesses who responded to the survey, or 98 of the 284 respondents.”
Those three industries were: food, dining and hospitality; personal services; and retail.
Cathy Yen, executive director of the chamber of commerce, did not respond to requests for an interview, but wrote in a Wednesday Journal blog post in May that the decision boils down to the question of whether Oak Parkers are willing to pay more for goods and services.
“If consumers will pay more to offset increased costs, then we can manage a higher minimum wage,” Yen wrote. “Let’s promote it and be proud of it. However, if price-conscious consumers choose cheaper coffee, restaurants, or services in a neighboring town, then we have to ask ourselves whether we can afford to stand on principle.”