Ken Jarosch is a small-business owner whose livelihood and those he employs would be affected by an ill-timed and too generous increase in the minimum wage.
He's not operating a fast-food chain known nationally or worldwide. He owns a bakery in Elk Grove Village, and this is an issue that hits home.
As he explained to Daily Herald Business Writer Anna Marie Kukec in a story published Monday, additional labor expenses would be passed on to consumers or contained by reducing hours for employees.
"Closing early each night virtually eliminates the need for high school-aged employees," Jarosch said of his part-timers who make the current minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. "We would hire more mature help who don't have soccer practices, spring musicals, debate tournaments or cheerleading. Eliminating the employment of high-schoolers would reduce our training time and costs."
Balance that with the arguments for an increase that the current minimum wage is not a livable wage for adults who are working similar jobs and that's where you have the dilemma -- one that politicians on all levels have been debating.
It's timely this week because a new Cook County ordinance goes into effect Saturday that increases the minimum wage to $10 and goes up again to $13 by 2020.
We've criticized Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle for not involving the suburbs in the discussions surrounding the increase before passing it. (A similar measure passed in the city of Chicago.)
And so it's no surprise, really, that the bulk of the communities in the Northwest suburbs of Cook County have opted out. That's their right and we understand why they did. In fact, of 134 municipalities in suburban Cook County, more than two-thirds have opted out of the wage increase and a mandate that employees receive up to five paid sick days. That, however, leaves a patchwork of laws regarding the minimum wage across the region.
It's a disparity that's not helpful to anyone. It's clear to us that this issue should be resolved at the state level and that any increases be fully debated and slowly implemented.
"I think it's regrettable you get this kind of confusion or inconsistency," said Michael LeRoy, a professor at the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations.
Change is hard. But handled in a more uniform and transparent way in this case can make it a little easier for both business owners and employees.