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Wilmette reverses course, fully adopts both county minimum wage and sick time rules

Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Kathy Routliffe

Wilmette reverses course, fully adopts both county minimum wage and sick time rules

With little fanfare or debate, the Wilmette Village Board unanimously agreed Tuesday to fully opt back into Cook County’s minimum wage and sick time ordinances.

Wilmette will now hew to the county’s paid sick time ordinance, which allows most workers to accrue up to 40 hours a year in paid sick time.


The board’s approval – technically its repeal of ordinances adopted that opted out of the county regulations – also means Cook County’s minimum wage ordinance, already in effect in Wilmette since June, will be free of extra conditions previously imposed by the village.

The county law requires most businesses to pay a minimum of $13 per hour by July 1, 2020, to adults over the age of 18, and to tie future minimum wage increases to the consumer price index.

“I think tonight’s action is necessary and overdue,” board member Joel Kurzman said.

In contrast to other meetings at which dozens of people spoke for or against the wage and sick time issues, only 10 people spoke before the board vote. Six opposed opting back in, and four supported the village’s move.

Wilmette resident Betsy Hart, who said she was speaking against the county ordinances on behalf of the community group New Trier Neighbors, said the village initially opted out of them because village officials believed the county had exceeded its authority in instituting them.

“It appears that the fix is in,” Hart said.

Resident Gina Kennedy said the results of advisory referendums Nov. 6 showed that a majority of village residents supported both county standards.

“I recognize that there has been some animosity on both sides,” Kennedy said. “I hope that after tonight, we all set aside those feelings.”

Village President Bob Bielinski cited the referendum results two days after the election, when he recommended the board reverse course.

Bielinski noted that a large majority of Wilmette voters supported the referendums, each of which asked if voters supported their community adopting county wage and sick time standards. The elections had large turnouts, and in Wilmette no precinct had lower than 65 percent support for county regulations, he said.

The board action marks the third time the Village Board has voted on the two county ordinances.

In 2017, the board opted not to adopt them, but pledged to study how putting them into practice might affect village businesses and residents.

After reviewing the findings of a working group appointed by Bielinski, the Village Board in June of this year decided to adopt the county wage provisions, but added conditions that would end the minimum wage schedule by July 2021, or if the state enacted its own higher minimum wage.

None of the June conditions was attached to the most recent vote.

MORE: Northbrook will revisit Cook County minimum wage ordinance in May »

The study stated that more than 1,300 low-wage earners work in Wilmette; nearly 20 percent of those workers also live in the village, Kurzman said. He also said he was sorry some of those workers hadn’t taken part in the study process.

Board members agreed to Bielinski’s request to postpone the sick time implementation until March 1 of next year.

The Wilmette-Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce requested a six-month delay, Bielinski said, but he said a 90-day delay should be enough time for businesses to prepare for the new paperwork to track sick time.

The county ordinances could be superseded by any future state laws covering wage or sick time issues, village attorney Jeffrey Stein said.


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