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Western Springs Board votes to follow county ordinance, raising minimum wage to $11 this year

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Pioneer Press
by David Heitz

Businesses in Western Springs will have to start following Cook County guidelines on minimum wage and paid sick leave after the Village Board reversed an earlier decision to “opt out” of those laws.

After month of listening to community feedback, the Western Springs Village Board voted 4-2 Monday to now abide by the county regulations. That means the minimum wage of $8.25 an hour in town will jump to $11 an hour effective July 1, and it will gradually increase to up to $13 an hour by 2020.

The paid sick leave law also will full-time workers to earn up to five paid sick days per year.

This vote erases the May 2017 vote that allowed the village to opt-out of the county ordinances, and instructs the village attorney to draft new ordinances repealing the previous ones, officials said.

Board members Berry Allen and James Tyrrell both voted against adopting the county laws, saying the original decision to opt out was done to support businesses in the village, which stand to be impacted the most.

“There are about 100 businesses in this village, most of them family owned, and raising the minimum wage to $11 per hour will have a big impact on them,” Tyrrell said. “It puts businesses in this town at a disadvantage over other towns.”

Village President Alice Gallagher, who was a board trustee when the original vote was taken last year and supported opting out of the ordinances at that time, said she believes Cook County has “overstepped their legislative authority with these ordinances.”

But she said she stands by the board vote, and thanked the community for all the feedback received, saying the village can now move forward and put this issue aside.

The minimum wage and paid sick leave vote, and possible repeal of that opt-out vote, has been at the forefront for residents in the village over the past year, which has seen numerous residents and businesses speak out on both sides of the issue. A 2016 advisory referendum on the general election ballot showed that 67 percent of village residents voted in support of the minimum wage ordinance.

Supporters say it would get workers out of poverty-level wages, and with increases salaries, workers would be able to spend more money in the communities they live in, helping out the local economy. Critics say that it hurts local businesses and will force them to raise prices and hire fewer workers due to increase payroll costs.

The Village Board originally voted 4-2 in May 2017 to opt out of the county laws, which was allowed under a provision in the Cook County ordinance.

But the Western Springs Board action was taken to meet a deadline for action, and approved with the caveat that the new Village Board, with three new trustees and a new village president being seated later that month, could review the issue at any time.

David Heitz is a freelance reporter

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