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