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updated: 7/7/2017 6:20 PM

Three-quarters of suburbs have opted out of Cook County minimum wage rules

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  • Jack Gallagher, 18, boxes pastries at Jarosch Bakery in Elk Grove Village, one of several Cook County towns to opt out of county ordinances raising the minimum wage and providing sick days.

      Jack Gallagher, 18, boxes pastries at Jarosch Bakery in Elk Grove Village, one of several Cook County towns to opt out of county ordinances raising the minimum wage and providing sick days.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer, June 2017

 
 

Though Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances went into effect July 1, some suburbs are still debating whether to follow them.

A Daily Herald survey of 134 municipalities in suburban Cook County shows more than three-quarters have opted out of two county ordinances that raise the minimum wage to $10 and mandate businesses pay employees up to five sick days. Municipalities -- by vote of local village boards and councils -- can choose to opt in or out at any time.

Local chambers of commerce have implored municipalities to opt out, arguing businesses would be harmed by higher labor costs than competitors in adjacent suburbs. Supporters contend that the county was right to take action because state and federal governments haven't.

Meanwhile, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who helped author the county legislation, said Friday that an attorney representing supporters is investigating the possibility of a lawsuit against the opt-out towns.

On Thursday night, Skokie trustees decided in a split 3-3 first reading vote not to opt out. One trustee was absent. A final reading vote is scheduled for July 17. That same night, East Dundee trustees will meet to discuss the ordinances for the first time. Only a small portion of the village is in Cook County, while most is in Kane County.

A number of towns voted to opt out just days before the county ordinances took effect, including Bensenville, Brookfield, Lemont, Roselle and Wilmette.

Others, like Evanston and Oak Park, reaffirmed their decisions to follow the county ordinances, despite calling last-minute special meetings to consider opting out. Supporters of the county ordinances showed up in droves, leading officials in both towns not to take a vote.

"We were thrilled with the turnout in all three places (Evanston, Oak Park and Skokie)," said Shelly Ruzicka, a spokeswoman for Arise Chicago, an advocacy group that has pushed local officials to allow the ordinances to stand.

The county minimum wage increased pay from the state-mandated $8.25 to $10 an hour on July 1, with plans to go to $11 a year later, $12 in 2019, and $13 in 2020.

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