The minimum wage for employees working in Oak Lawn might soon rise to $10 per hour after the Board of Trustees delayed voting on an ordinance to opt out of the increase.
Cook County passed an ordinance in October 2016 to raise minimum wage incrementally over the next 3 years. In July, the minimum wage will rise to $10 per hour. Then a year later, it will rise to $11 per hour. In 2019 it will go up to $12 per hour. Then in 2020, it will go up to $13 per hour. After that, it should rise with inflation.
Local municipalities can choose to opt out of the County’s ordinance. This would allow businesses within those municipalities to continue paying the State minimum wage of $8.25 per hour. The ordinance before the Oak Lawn Board of Trustees would have made that possible.
Business owners have lobbied Trustees to pass the ordinance opting out. The business reason that they would need to raise their prices to account for the wage increase, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in neighboring communities who have opted out. Either that, or they would have to cut staff. Alsip, Evergreen Park, Burbank, Bedford Park, Palos Park, Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Palos Heights, and Hickory Hills have already opted out of the minimum wage ordinance.
In the past, Steve Manning, executive director of Park Lawn, said the organization might cease to exist if it has to increase employees’ wages significantly. Park Lawn serves people with developmental disabilities, with some programs offering employment opportunities to the disabled.
On the other side of the equation are the low-wage workers. Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer has stated that changes in the labor market have increased the number of low-wage service workers who do not move out of those jobs, as they might have in the past.
The cost of living in Cook County currently sits about 50% higher than the State’s minimum wage, according to data made available by MIT. The Living Wage Calculator aims to show how much money a person or family needs to make in order to support itself in any given community. The Living Wage is calculated to be $12.56 in Cook County. The Cook County wage ordinance won’t surpass that level until 2020.
Outgoing Trustee Mike Carberry (District 6) made the motion to table the opt-out ordinance at the April 25th meeting. He objected to the ordinance, he said, because it had not gone through a proper vetting process.
“There’s been no discussion, at all, and there should be. That’s why we have an ethics & ordinance committee. That’s where it should have been. It should have gone to ethics & ordinance. It should have been discussed and vetted.”
While the opt-out ordinance was ‘tabled’, it could make a comeback. Since the Cook County wage increase doesn’t go into effect until July, there are still 3 more Board of Trustee meetings where the opt-out could make a reappearance. The ordinance is tentatively scheduled to come back at the May 9th meeting.