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What’s Next As Voters Overwhelmingly Support Higher Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Time

Monday, November 12, 2018
Journal and Topics Online
by Tom Robb


What’s Next As Voters Overwhelmingly Support Higher Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Time

By Tom Robb | on November 12, 2018

The passage of advisory referenda supporting Cook County’s higher minimum wage and mandatory sick time ordinances — which many local municipalities have opted out of — will likely be raised as an issue in April’s municipal elections.

Advisory referendum questions asking if “your municipality” should opt back into the Cook County minimum wage and mandatory paid sick time ordinances both won with overwhelming majorities of more than 80 percent, including every township in the Journal & Topics suburban coverage area.

Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-13th), who authored both ordinances, and later the the Nov. 6 referenda, said supporters of the higher county minimum wage would make the previous votes by municipal leaders to opt out an issue in the upcoming April 2019 municipal elections. After more than 100 municipalities used home rule authority to opt out of the Cook County minimum wage and mandatory sick time ordinances before they took effect last year, Suffredin, placed an advisory referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot which read, “Shall the minimum wage in your municipality match the $13 per hour Cook County minimum wage law for adults over the age of 18 by July 1, 2020, and be indexed to the consumer price index after that?”

A second advisory referendum asked if municipalities should conform to the county ordinance mandating employers provide paid sick time to employees in Cook County.

Suburban Cook County voters approved the minimum wage question with near 80% approval and approved the mandatory sick time question by an 85% margin in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 Gubernatorial General Election.

Every township in the Journal coverage area approved both the minimum wage and sick time ordinances by overwhelming margins. Voter turnout was highest for a midterm election in suburban Cook County history, county clerk officials said.

Suffredin said he has heard from Wilmette Village President Bob Bielinski, who Suffredin said was introducing a measure to opt back into the county minimum wage ordinance at the Tuesday, Nov. 13 village board meeting (a measure which would take two meetings to adopt).

Both Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson and Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison (R-17th) said raising the minimum wage needs to be addressed by the Illinois Legislature.

Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison (R-17th).

Morrison said Monday, “I call on Gov. Elect JB Pritzker to take it up (a bill increasing the minimum wage at the state level) and pass it.”

“Larry (Suffredin) should go down to springfield,” Johnson said. “This is not an issue towns should decide. It should be a state or federal issue.”

Morrison said he understands the vote. “It’s human nature not to turn down a benefit… I’m not against (raising) the minimum wage and sick time,” Morrison said. “The problem is it’s a patchwork” of some towns opting out and some in.

Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson at a chamber of commerce luncheon addresses business leaders. (Journal file photo)

Niles was one of the towns opting out of the county minimum wage ordinance over the strong objections of its mayor, Andrew Przybylo.

Przybylo instructed village staff to perform an analysis of the results of the referendum. He said researching anecdotally, he found many employees in Niles already earn more than minimum wage.

“I see it from the perspective from the chamber (of commerce). They’re already paying it (the higher wage) and they don’t know it. It’s symbolic more than anything else,” Przybylo said. Looking at the referendum results, Przybylo continued, “I’m conflicted, I ran to represent the people of Niles.”

Niles Mayor Andrew Przybylo. (Journal file photo)

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