Members of the Northbrook Working Families Coalition asked the Board of Trustees Tuesday to consider opting back into the Cook County minimum wage ordinance after residents supported the move in a non-binding referendum.
After discussion, the board moved to reconsider opting into the Cook County minimum wage ordinance at a May 2019 meeting if the state legislature does not take action before then.
Northbrook voters were asked whether the village should match the Cook County minimum wage ordinance to reach $13 per hour by July 1, 2020, and 77 percent of voters supported that initiative, according to a letter from state Rep. Laura Fine to the board of trustees.
Tracy Katz Muhl, a member of the Northbrook Working Families Coalition, said the board should listen to the voters and support working families.
“These workers are counting on us. They have been counting on us for a long time. I’d like to see us not let them down again. I’d like to see us answer the voters with a yes,” Muhl said.
Michelle Kohler, a member of the Northbrook Working Families Coalition, said she had hoped that the state legislature would have taken action on minimum wage. But since it has not, the village board should listen to the voters and take action, Kohler said.
A year ago, the state legislature passed a bill regarding minimum wage, but it was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
After the midterm elections, Democrats will have a super majority in the state legislature and a new governor who is unlikely to veto a minimum wage bill, Frum said. Given these political shifts, the state should take action again, she said.
“They have basically told me they will not make an effort to put something on the books,” Frum said. “I am one of those that’s said I want to see what the state will do. I want to talk with my legislators personally and actually push them to act because I think this is something that should be done on the state level.”
But Frum said that at the end of the legislative session, around May 2019, she will “seriously consider voting for” opting into the Cook County minimum wage ordinance if the state does not take action beforehand. Frum said she does not support opting into the ordinance by Jan. 1, 2019, because it does not give businesses enough time to adjust.
Trustee Kathryn Ciesla recommended the board discuss opting into the Cook County minimum wage ordinance at the May 28, 2019 meeting because it is “plenty of time to give our state an opportunity to do what they are going to do.”
Having the discussion in May will also give businesses enough time to respond, she said.
“The state has always regulated minimum wage. We have never regulated minimum wage. I have had a long history on this board not wanting to tell other governing entities what to do and I am offended that our state representatives have taken the position with us that they are telling us what to do when this is indeed their responsibility,” Ciesla said. “But I am not going to ignore the voters in our community who gave us a very clear direction.”
In July, Trustee Muriel Collison asked the board to consider opting in to the Cook County paid sick leave ordinance after opting out last year. In October, the board approved an ordinance that would repeal the previous decision, which means the board adopted the paid sick leave ordinance effective Jan. 1, 2019.
Collison voted to opt out of the Cook County minimum wage ordinance last year, and in July she said that her stance on the ordinance has not changed.
On Tuesday, Collison said that the message from voters is clear and that she is “very comfortable” discussing opting in at the May meeting.
“That gives time, and I really hope that we can some how put some pressure (on state representatives) because I would really like for it to be statewide,” Collison said.
Kohler said she was disappointed by the board’s decision.
“I thought the voice of the voters was exceptionally clear,” Kohler said. “I am happy to hear it made it as an agenda item but I worry about the worker’s wage between then and now.”