Politics, not workers' welfare, prompt Cook vote

  • The Cook County Board followed a pattern of ignoring the suburbs when it voted to raise the minimum wage for the county.

    The Cook County Board followed a pattern of ignoring the suburbs when it voted to raise the minimum wage for the county. Courtesy of Cook County

 
Posted10/27/2016 9:54 AM

How to solve a problem if you really care about the outcome:

Talk to the main players, build consensus, and go with an approach that's effective and that most can live with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

How to approach a problem if you only care about how you look, not whether anyone's actually helped:

Ignore the other players, push through a plan most of them oppose, claim credit for taking action, and make the others use time and money to undo what you've forced upon them.

The Cook County Board led by Toni Preckwinkle followed the second route in passing its policy requiring sick leave for all workers, with the likely result that few workers will get helped, more lawyers will make more money, and the Cook County Democrats who control the board will make political hay at the expense of the suburbs.

The county board followed the same pattern again on Wednesday when it voted to raise the minimum wage for the county. Once again, suburbs can opt out, potentially creating a wage patchwork across the county and possibly resulting in no actual minimum wage increase, except in scattered unincorporated areas.

Both ordinances were passed in spite of opinions from the Cook County state's attorney -- the county board's lawyer -- that the board lacks authority to take such steps.

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Requiring five days of paid sick leave for all workers and phasing in a suburban minimum wage increase to $13 by 2020 certainly could help low-wage earners.

But business concerns also have to be taken into account.

If the county commissioners really wanted to help workers, they would have shown the leadership to collaborate with the suburbs to create policies a majority could support.

Or, better yet, they could have left the issue with state or federal lawmakers, where it belongs.

It's another example of the Cook County Board bulldozing suburban interests and spending a lot of time and effort on something that helps them politically, but is likely to help constituents not at all.

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