- Dec 19, 2018
On the heels of voter support for the non-binding minimum wage referendum, the Village Board of Trustees recently agreed to address the issue of the minimum wage later this year should the state not take action.
At a Board meeting late last year, the Trustees discussed the issue for the first time since May 2017, when they exercised their right as a home rule community to opt out of a mandatory Cook County ordinance that gradually increases the minimum wage up to $13 an hour in 2020. At the time, Trustees concurred with the Chamber’s position that it would put businesses at an unfair advantage with those immediately across the street in Lake County. Trustees also agreed that it should be addressed at the state level as a matter of fairness to all communities.
At their recent meeting, Trustees also considered the results of the recent referendum question on the November 2018 ballot, “Shall the minimum wage in your municipality match the $13 an hour Cook County minimum wage law for adults over the age of 18 by July 1, 2020 and be indexed to the Consumer Price Index after that?” which received 77% of Northbrook voter support. Activists in support of the minimum wage hike have appeared at several Village Board meetings, citing the vote and criticizing the Trustees and demanding the Village take action.
Trustees stated that they had also received a letter signed by seven local legislators, including Senator-elect Laura Fine, Sen. Daniel Biss, Rep. Jonathan Carroll and Rep. Robyn Gabel, urging the Village to take action due to uncertainty at the state level. The letter was not signed by Sen. Julie Morrison.
“While we all hope that the new administration will take on this issue in the next two years, given the complexities of a statewide bill (e.g. regional differences in the cost of living) we cannot speak to the timing and form of the new bill,” the letter stated. The legislators went on further to suggest that it would be unlikely for Northbrook workers to get to $13/hour by July 2020 through state action, as stipulated in the referendum. Instead, the letter encouraged the Trustees “to take action before the new year to opt in and give businesses three steps up in wages over the next 2.5 years to meet your voters’ goal.”
“My question to the legislators is if they passed this a year ago, and now they have the support of a sympathetic governor, why wouldn’t they at least make the effort to bring the matter up again?” -Village President Sandra FrumIn August 2017, Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation passed by both the House and Senate that would have raised the Illinois minimum wage to $11.25 an hour by 2020 and to $15 a hour by 2022. Reiterating their position that the minimum wage should be a state issue, the Trustees stated that they were disappointed that the legislators placed the issue back in their lap. President Frum commented, “My question to the legislators is if they passed this a year ago, and now they have the support of a sympathetic governor, why wouldn’t they at least make the effort to bring the matter up again?” She added that she intends to continue to encourage them to take up the issue in the next legislative session.
Trustee Ciesla concurred, “I’m offended that our state representatives are telling us what to do when it’s their responsibility.” But both said they take the results of the referendum seriously and support taking the matter up at the conclusion of the legislative session at the end of May, should the General Assembly fail to take action. They expressed concern for businesses who need time to adjust and plan for the increase.
When asked if the Trustees could take another course of action to increase the minimum wage, President Frum noted, “If we do anything, we will opt into the Cook County ordinance, with a delayed start (we don’t know the date at this point) so businesses will have time to implement the increase.” She added that the Village will not set its own minimum wage as it would be too difficult to enforce.