Arlington Heights opts out of Cook County rules on wages, sick time

 
 
Updated 5/2/2017 10:11 AM
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  • Cook County Clerk David Orr speaks in favor Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances outside Arlington Heights village hall Monday night before the village board voted to opt out of both rules.

      Cook County Clerk David Orr speaks in favor Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances outside Arlington Heights village hall Monday night before the village board voted to opt out of both rules. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • People packed the Arlington Heights boardroom Monday night to express their views on whether the village should opt out of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances. After an hour and a half of public comment, the board eventually voted 5-4 to opt out.

      People packed the Arlington Heights boardroom Monday night to express their views on whether the village should opt out of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances. After an hour and a half of public comment, the board eventually voted 5-4 to opt out. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Supporters of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances pack the Arlington Heights village boardroom Monday night, when the board decided to opt out of the rules.

      Supporters of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances pack the Arlington Heights village boardroom Monday night, when the board decided to opt out of the rules. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 teacher Ryan Danzinger speaks in support of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances Monday night.

      Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 teacher Ryan Danzinger speaks in support of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances Monday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Dawn Frenzel of Arlington Heights speaks in support of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances Monday night.

      Dawn Frenzel of Arlington Heights speaks in support of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances Monday night. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • The Arlington Heights village board voted 5-4 Monday night to opt out of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances.

      The Arlington Heights village board voted 5-4 Monday night to opt out of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

The Arlington Heights village board narrowly decided Monday to join a growing list of Northwest suburban municipalities that have opted out of Cook County ordinances raising the minimum wage and mandating businesses pay employees for sick days, despite calls from a boardroom full of advocates to support the county rules.

The board voted 5-4, with Mayor Tom Hayes and Trustees Tom Glasgow, Jim Tinaglia, John Scaletta and Bert Rosenberg voting to opt out. Trustees Mike Sidor, Robin LaBedz, Carol Blackwood and Richard Baldino voted to support the Cook County ordinances.

Hayes and other trustees said they may agree with the concept of a higher minimum wage but believe it's something that should be handled by the federal or state government. Hayes noted other towns around Arlington Heights have already opted out, which meant if the village didn't follow suit, it would put its businesses at a "severe disadvantage," he said.

"To have a patchwork of minimum wage laws especially in the county or Northwest suburban area is anti-business," Hayes said.

Sidor and other trustees who voted against opting out said they were listening to the will of constituents who flooded their email inboxes and phone lines.

"You put us up here," Sidor said. "You've told us what you want Arlington Heights to be. You've told us what direction you want Arlington Heights to go. That made my decision quite easy."

As of July 1, the new minimum wage in Cook County will be $10 an hour, then $11 an hour on July 1, 2018; $12 an hour in 2019; and $13 an hour in 2020. The current Illinois minimum wage is $8.25 -- the rate that will apply in communities that opt out of the county rules.

The sick leave ordinance will require most private employers in Cook County to offer up to five days of paid sick leave a year.

A total of 30 people addressed the board before the vote Monday night, most arguing in favor of the county ordinances, though chamber of commerce officials and some business owners agreed with the opt-out.

Erik Varela, special assistant in Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's office, read a letter from Preckwinkle to Arlington Heights officials expressing her disappointment in towns that have opted out. She wrote that their "spirit of cooperation is lacking" despite the county's collaboration on business tax incentives and transportation investments.

Cook County Clerk David Orr, who also attended the meeting, cited statistics that 65 percent of Arlington Heights voters supported a higher state minimum wage and 75 percent favored paid sick days in nonbinding referendums.

"There's nothing wrong with treating people who do some of the toughest work in the world with a little bit of dignity and respect," Orr said at a rally before the meeting organized by the workers rights group Arise Chicago.

A similar protest was held before the March 20 village board meeting, when trustees were first scheduled to vote, until Hayes proposed a decision be delayed until May 1 to allow more time to hear from constituents.

Municipalities that have already passed opt-out ordinances include Barrington, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Rosemont, Schaumburg, Streamwood and Wheeling, and others are considering doing the same. They have until July to do so, when the county ordinances approved last fall take effect.

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