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Wilmette mayor tasks committee with analyzing minimum wage data

Monday, August 28, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Kathy Routliffe, Pioneer Press

Wilmette Village President Bob Bielinski has told the board's finance committee to take a closer look at Cook County minimum wage and earned sick time laws, directing it to gather and analyze as much demographic and economic data as possible on how the two could affect village businesses.

That fulfills a promise Bielinski and other board members made to residents June 27, when the board opted out of county ordinances on both issues. The county voted to increase, over a period of years, the minimum wage, and to allow paid sick leave for many employees.

But even as Bielinski laid out in a written statement what he wants the committee to do — decide how to get the data and outline that process in an initial report to the board, then tackle the actual analysis — he also said he didn't it to tell the board what to do with the information.

"The committee's purpose is not to make a substantive recommendation as to policy choices," Bielinski said in the report he gave to board members at their Aug. 22 meeting. "Rather, the purpose is to assemble, analyze and present data relevant to the policy choices, so as to better inform the board."

That should include private sector employment data from Wilmette, and information from comparable communities that did or didn't opt out of the county legislation, he said.

Bielinski also warned the committee, chaired by Trustee Dan Sullivan, not to let its new task interfere with upcoming 2018 budget deliberations and 2017 financial reviews, which he said the village's board and staff are committed to completing.

As a result, he said, the committee shouldn't expect to present its planning report for board discussion until after this year's budget talks.

Bielinski urged all trustees to get involved in the three-person committee's meetings. He said the committee should seek input from residents, businesses and other members of the public. In addition to an email address, countystudy@wilmette.com, to which people communicate, he said the committee "may wish to consider a web page or other means of gathering input outside of its meetings."

He also directed the committee to "directly engage" with groups that have been publicly interested in the issue, including the Wilmette-Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce, and the League of Women Voters of Wilmette.

Julie Yusim, the chamber's executive director, told board members in June that her members opposed the county ordinances, even though, she said, nearly all chamber members already paid at or above current minimum wage levels.

Representatives of the league, including co-president Allyson Haut, supported the ordinances. Before the board's vote, Haut said a majority of Wilmette voters earlier supported non-binding referenda in favor of both minimum wage and earned sick time legislation.

A June report from Village Manager Tim Frenzer outlined what the county ordinances, out of which more than 100 municipalities opted, would do:

• Set a minimum wage of $10 an hour, effective July 1, 2017. That goes up $1 an hour each July 1 through 2020, so that by July 1, 2020 it will be $13. It would cover any employee doing work in Cook County for an employer with one or more workers working in any business facility in the county; workers with union contracts are exempt, as are government workers;

• Require employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for each 40 hours of work to any employee who works at least 80 hours within a 120-day period, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.

Haut said Aug. 28, "We're pleased that the board, and President Bieilinski have carried through on their stated intent." The organization would send observers to future meetings on the issue, she said.

"We'll see what happens going forward," Haut said.

Bielinski's report is part of the Aug. 22 board packet, which is available at the village website, www.wilmette.com.

kroutliffe@pioneerlocal.com

Twitter @pioneer_kathy



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