LA GRANGE – A planned protest March 13 at La Grange Village Hall turned into a thank-you rally to the village’s elected officials for choosing not to opt out of Cook County ordinances that would raise the minimum wage and mandate employers provide a certain amount of sick leave to their employees.
Village President Tom Livingston said the Village Board was prepared to move forward with a motion to opt out of the new requirements at a meeting in February. However, the board agreed to table the measure, and after speaking with residents and the La Grange Business Association, the officials chose not to move forward with an opt-out, he said.
Cook County commissioners approved two ordinances in October 2016 mandating an increase in the minimum wage to $10 per hour by July 1 of this year and then to $13 per hour by mid-2020, and a second requiring employers to provide as many as 40 hours – or five full work days – worth of sick leave per year to employees. The sick leave mandate takes effect July 1.
“We do feel our employers are really good employers, and they’ve been friendly and supportive of their employees,” Livingston said.
He said he thinks many already make adequate arrangements with employees regarding sick leave and that many already pay more than the state minimum wage of $8.25 per hour. This rationale was the board’s “starting position,” Livingston said.
He also said some businesses were concerned that because the village is in close proximity to DuPage County, which has not imposed a minimum wage more than what the state mandates, the new requirement in Cook County created a “lack of equity.”
“In our case, we were looking at it from a geographic perspective,” Livingston said. “We always prefer to be on a level playing field.”
Brecken Cutler, a La Grange resident and member of Indivisible La Grange/La Grange Park – a local chapter of a national grassroots political group – said about two weeks ago, she spotted a post online about the village’s plan to opt out of the county ordinance via Arise Chicago, a labor advocacy group.
She said she got involved in the issue following the board’s February meeting.
The two groups, Arise Chicago and Indivisible La Grange/La Grange Park, and other organizations, including churches, got involved in an effort to oppose the opt-out, Cutler said.
She said the original plan was to gather a group of residents to speak out about the proposed opt-out at the Village Board’s March 13 meeting.