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Minimum wage pulled from Oak Park board agenda

Residents flood trustees with opposition to opting out of county laws

June 16th, 2017 3:41 PM

By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

An outcry from residents over Oak Park potentially opting out of minimum wage increase imposed by Cook County has prompted Trustee Deno Andrews to pull the item from the agenda of Monday night's board meeting.

Andrews and Trustee Dan Moroney began discussing the issue earlier this week on Facebook, noting that it would be addressed by the board at its weekly meeting set for June 19.

Reached by phone, Moroney said Andrews originally requested that the issue be discussed by the board. Moroney explained he seconded the request, because in order for an issue to be taken up by the board two trustees must make the request.

The county ordinance requires the minimum wage to increase to $10 an hour on July 1, and then an additional dollar every year until it reached $13 in 2020. It also requires employers to allow hourly employees to accrue up to five days of paid sick leave.

Andrews said in a telephone interview that he originally requested to have the item placed on the agenda to give business owners the opportunity to discuss the issue.

"I don't believe there would be a single vote (on the board) to opt out, but it doesn't negate the inherent issues with the law and how it would affect local businesses," he said.

Andrews said he felt the public "misconstrued our wanting to discuss it as wanting to opt out and that wasn't the case."

Andrews said he discussed the issue with various business owners over the last few weeks, noting, "I didn't meet a single business owner that was against higher wages for their employees."

He said their concern was about high sales taxes, increasing property taxes and the so-called sugary drink tax that is being imposed by the county.

"It's an issue about overall taxation," he said.

Moroney said he likely would have not voted to opt out of the county wage hike, but said that the topic merited discussion.

He said Cathy Yen, executive director of the Oak Park Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to board members last week requesting that the issue be placed on the agenda, because a survey showed 70 percent of Oak Park business owners who will be affected by the legislation opposed the wage increase.

He said Andrews put in a request last night to have the agenda item pulled.

That's after a flood of opposition from Oak Park residents, according to Trustee Bob Tucker, who said earlier this week that he adamantly opposed opting out.

"Honestly, I think the outpouring of comments from Oak Parkers to the village board made them reconsider whether or not they should move forward with this," Tucker said in a telephone interview. "I think the community spoke loud and clear on this, and it's a big win for Oak Park and Oak Park values."

Tucker said hundreds of emails were sent to the board calling on elected officials to stick with the wage hike.

"I was thrilled to see that reaction, because I never wanted it on the agenda to begin with," Tucker said.

Moroney said he believes some businesses in Oak Park will have to lay off some workers or close their doors entirely once the wage hike takes effect.

"I was fine if it was kept on [the agenda]," he said, adding, "I think it would have been a little bit of a circus [at the board meeting] I wasn't looking forward to."

Trustee Simone Boutet said in a telephone interview that she also had requested the item be placed on the agenda for discussion, but only to find out more about the county ordinance and what effect it would have on businesses in Oak Park.

Boutet said she and some others on the board were unaware of the issue until a story was published on the topic in Wednesday Journal.

Although the item was placed on the agenda for discussion, Boutet said, "I don't think the intent was ever to opt out."

* This story was updated to include comments from Deno Andrews.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com