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Residents speak out as Wilmette Board introduces minimum wage and sick time ordinances

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Wilmette Life reporter Kathy Routliff

The Wilmette Village Board won’t decide whether to opt in to Cook County’s minimum wage and paid sick time ordinances until June 26, Village President Bob Bielinski warned a full audience Tuesday.

Nor would trustees discuss Tuesday’s technical introduction of two ordinances that would let Wilmette do so, he said.

“We don’t discuss it, we don’t debate it and we certainly don’t vote on it,” he said.

Despite Bielinski’s caveats, more than two dozen people spoke about the ordinances that would repeal the village’s June 2017 decision to opt out of the county laws.

All but three speakers supported opting back in to the county rules, the first of which would hike the minimum wage in stages to $13 by 2020. The second would require most employers to provide paid sick leave to employees working at least 80 hours in a 120-day period.

The count was slightly less lop-sided when Bielinski asked audience members to raise their hands if they were for or against adhering to the county regulations. Bielinski counted 20 people opposing an opt-in vote, and 34 favoring doing so.

When board members agreed last month to reconsider their opt-out, more than three dozen people spoke; 19 supported the county ordinances and 18 argued against opting back in.

Most of the speakers, who were told to keep comments to three minutes, repeated arguments the board has heard at previous meetings: that county rules wouldn’t hurt local businesses and would improve the lives of Wilmette’s low wage earners. Some supporters also claimed that many village business owners actually support raising the minimum wage.

Wilmette resident Alexandra Eidenberg said she was a small business owner who supported opting back in.

“I’m a fifth-generation business owner. I know it’s a very bumpy ride,” she said. “I feel the vast majority of businesses support it.

Wilmette resident Eleanor Lipinski said the argument that government shouldn’t intervene in businesses wasn’t valid because the government often intervenes, citing health inspectors and village inspection of electrical systems.

“We don’t just trust that businesses are doing things on their own,” Lipinski said.

Opponents, who want the village to maintain the stance it took last year, said the requirements would hurt both village businesses and minimum wage workers, and represented undue government interference into business owners’ operations.

Resident Tom Sparks, who joked that he felt like “a heathen speaking in church,” nonetheless argued that an $8.25 per hour minimum wage is one that tells an employee they must do better to earn more.

The issue is scheduled to be voted on at the Village Board meeting at 7 p.m. June 26 at Wilmette Village Hall, 1200 Wilmette Ave.

Information on the ordinances, is available at in the June 12 agenda packet. Information results of a Wilmette working group study on the potential impact of minimum wage and sick time regulations is available on the village site in the packet for the board’s May 15 committee of the whole session.

Twitter @pioneer_kathy

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