For the Bugle
During the Nov. 6 election, Cook County voters overwhelmingly supported the advisory referenda urging municipalities that opted out of the county minimum wage increase and mandatory paid sick leave policies to opt back in.
After the two policies were passed in October 2016, a number of municipalities throughout the suburbs – including Niles, Morton Grove and Park Ridge – used their home rule powers to opt out.
(Photo by Igor Studenkov)
But the Bugle analysis of precinct-level data suggests that a substantial portion of the residents who voted during the last election would have preferred that they didn’t. The support is particularly strong in Morton Grove, and the sick leave advisory referendum got more support overall than the minimum wage referendum.
As previously reported by the Bugle, in the way of the City of Chicago using its home rule power to approve the gradual minimum wage increases, the Cook County Board of Commissioners followed suit, approving its own gradual increase that will eventually make its minimum wage smaller than Chicago’s, but still larger than the $8.25 Illinois minimum wage. It went up to $10 an hour in July 1 and $11 an hour in July 2018, It will go up to $12 an hour in July 2019 and $13 an hour in July 2020.
By comparison, by 2019, Chicago minimum wage will increase to $13 and, unlike the Cook County minimum wage, it will keep increasing by 2.5 percent or the rise in the Consumer Price Index – whichever is greater.
The county paid sick leave ordinance, which the county board approved on Oct. 5, 2016, requires employers to give any employees that worked at least 80 hours within a 120 day period one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. The City of Chicago approved a similar ordinance around the same time.
In the run up to July 2017 – when both ordinances took effect – many Cook County municipalities with home rule powers voted to opt out. The Morton Grove village board held the vote in response to the request from the Morton Grove Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while the Park Ridge City Council voted on it after a survey by the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce revealed the member businesses were split on the issue, with businesses located near Park Ridge/Chicago border generally supporting the ordinances and businesses further out opposing it.
In Niles, the situation was more complicated. With the support of fellow village trustee Joe LoVerde, trustee George Alpogianis, who owns Kappy’s American Grill in Morton Grove, placed the opt-out ordinances on the agenda over Mayor Andrew Przybylo’s objections.
In all three municipalities, the discussion was contentious. Supporters of the opt-outs argued that opting in would put the municipalities at a competitive disadvantage in terms of attracting and retaining businesses, and hurt businesses those profit margins were already razor-thin. Supporters of the ordinances argued that the state minimum wage failed to keep up with the rising costs of living, and that the paid sick leave policies would ultimately be better of businesses and families alike since employees wouldn’t feel like they need to come to work while pushing through the illness.
Niles and Morton Grove village boards voted to opt out by a 4-2 vote and a 5-1 vote, respectively.
The Nov. 6 referenda were non-binding, with the vote meant purely to gauge how the residents feel on the issue. While preliminary returns made it clear that voters in suburban Cook County overall supported both, the Bugle couldn’t look at how individual municipalities voted until precinct-level data became available.
While, in most cases, precincts fall within a single municipality, there are several cases where a precinct spanned two, or even three, municipalities. So, for each municipality, the Bugle looked at two sets of totals. For example, for Niles, it looked at the precincts that fell within Niles and what happens to the totals when precincts that weren’t 100 percent in Niles were added in.
Overall, the trend was the same. In Niles, 77.79 residents supported opting in to minimum wage ordinance and 83.11 percent supported opting into the sick leave ordinance. If partial precincts were added in, the percentage went up to 78.78 percent and 83.96 percent, respectively.
In Morton Grove, 82.28 percent supported the minimum wage opt-in and 87.42 percent supported the sick leave opt-in. If partial precincts were added in, the percentage actually went down to 80.97 for minimum wage and 85.98 for sick leave.
In Park Ridge, the support was lower than in the other two. 71.29 percent supported minimum wage opt-in and 76.47 percent supported the sick leave opt-in, If partial precincts were added in, the number went up to 72.49 percent and 77.37 percent, respectively.
The Bugle also looked at the numbers for unincorporated portions of Maine Township. Since the township government isn’t a home rule unit of government, it couldn’t opt out to begin with. Nonetheless, most of the residents that voted supported both ordinances. 85.01 percent supported minimum wage increase ordinance and 89.58 percent supported the sick leave ordinance. When partial precincts were added in, the numbers went down to 81.04 percent and 85.79 percent, respectively.
When looking at how many voters cast the ballots overall versus how many residents voted for or against the two referenda in particular, it’s clear that a small portion skipped the question altogether – but participation never went below 90 percent. But when looking at the percentage of residents who voted in the referenda versus the number of registered voters overall, it becomes clear that the vote represents less than a half of all residents that could have potentially voted.
Given that the turnout in Niles, Morton Grove and Park Ridge seldom goes about 50-60 percent, the total may only reflect the preferences of about half the registered voters, but it does reflect the preference of the voters who are likely to go out and vote.