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Wilmette minimum wage working group surveys businesses, will survey residents

Monday, February 19, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Kathy Routliffe, Pioneer Press

Almost a quarter of more than 400 Wilmette businesses that were emailed a survey about minimum wage and paid sick time regulations earlier this month have sent in responses, a village official said Friday.

A working group set up last year to collect wage and sick time data from those businesses, and from other local sources, may be able send a final report to village trustees this summer, said John Prejzner, Wilmette's assistant director of administrative services.

The Wilmette Village Board opted out Cook County's minimum wage and sick time ordinances last June, but directed its Finance Committee to gauge what the impact of the ordinances might be on the village if it opted back in.

The committee recommended creating the working group to collect information. The group, which Village President Bob Bielinski said last year will not make recommendations but simply gather data, was formed last December.

It has held three meetings this year. John Jacoby, a former village president, was tapped to head the seven-person panel.

Prejzner said the working group hopes to get its final report to village board members before this coming July, when the county's wage ordinance calls for another hike in the minimum wage.

"There's nothing to say that the village has to have it by then, but that's the ideal," he said.

Prejzner said the business surveys were emailed Feb. 8, and the village has already received 90 responses, which he said represented almost 25 percent of those contacted. Wilmette has about 560 licensed businesses, he said, and hard copies of the survey were mailed out to all of them Friday.

Jacoby said the working group is scheduled to meet again March 5, and may meet again thereafter. He said the meetings have been well attended, and thanked residents for the input he said they have provided. Residents will also be surveyed about their opinions the county ordinances, Jacoby added.

Jacoby said the resident survey will be the last one undertaken. An outside firm will do it by telephone, he said.

"It will be scientifically conducted so that we can get a reliable study of residents' views," he said.

He said the group will also review existing wage and sick tie studies, and gather information from other communities, in addition to surveying village businesses and residents, a task he said village staff will tackle.

"We want to see what the experiences of other communities and of their businesses have been like," he said.

Jacoby said the group decided against surveying Wilmette employees about the ordinances.

"We decided not to because we felt there might be pressure on them about how to respond," Jacoby said. "We figure we can get the information we're seeking from other sources."

Prejzner said a representative from Arise Chicago, an organization that represents low-wage workers in the Chicago area, advised the working group that it is difficult to gather information from employees without having a relationship with them.

"He said we should rely on an existing body of work," Prejzner said.

Twitter: @pioneer_kathy

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