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Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Leave, and the Village of Wilmette

UPDATE – November 9, 2018:  Despite opting out of the paid sick leave policy and opting in to a modified minimum wage hike, the Village President Bob Bielinski stunned residents by proposing that the Village reconsider its decision — made just a few months ago after a year of study and input of hundreds of residents — and adopt the Cook County mandates on both minimum wage and paid sick leave.

Bielinski has directed that opting-in be on the Village Board agenda for a discussion and VOTE at their meeting November 27th at 7:30 pm.

At last count, more than 80% of Cook County municipalities had opted out.  You can contact Wilmette Village Trustees here and you can give public comment at the November 27th meeting.



Recent debate has sparked in response to Cook County’s attempt to impose a recently approved Cook County ordinance which increases the minimum wage in ONLY Cook County from $8.25 per hour to $10.00 upon adoption, to $11 in 2018, to $12 in 2019, to $13 in 2020, then by CPI in perpetuity.  Additionally, Cook County also approved an ordinance mandating paid sick leave benefits for all employees who work at least 80 hours during a 120-day period.  The Village Board of Trustees adopted an ordinance to opt out of the ordinance on June 27, 2017 as did 92 of the approximately 110 other suburban Cook County municipalities.


The landscape and quick history.  Mayor Rahm Emmanuel raised the minimum wage in Chicago in 2014, just two months before his re-election.  In the fall of 2016, Cook County took the Mayor’s executive order to the next step by approving the ordinances increasing the minimum wage and mandating paid sick leave benefits through the normal legislative process.  The ordinances were to go in effect July 1, 2017 for all of suburban Cook County.


In the 11th hour, a week or two before the ordinance was to go in effect, the Wilmette Chamber of Commerce reached out to the Village advocating for the Village to adopt an ordinance to opt out of the ordinance like other municipalities were throughout suburban Cook County.  At the same time, a handful of Wilmette residents, along with the League of Women Voters, organized to encourage the Village to comply with the ordinance to reflect the “will of the people”.


TRUE: There was an advisory question on the November 2014 ballot that read, “Shall the minimum wage in Illinois for adults over the age of 18 be raised to $10 per hour by January 1, 2015?”

There was an advisory question on the November 2016 ballot that read, “Shall Illinois enact the Earned Sick Time for Employees Act which will allow Illinois workers to earn up to 40 hours of sick time a year to take care of their own health or a family member’s health?”


FALSE: “On June 27th, four days before the law became effective, the Village approved an ordinance created specifically for Wilmette to bypass the new benefits, despite that nearly 70% of our residents voted in favor of the $10 minimum wage and earned sick leave.” (Wilmette Justice Team home page, under “what happened”

  1. The Village approved a local ordinance allowing Wilmette to opt out of a Cook County ordinance that raised the Minimum Wage from $8.25 to $10.00 per hour  July 1, 2017, then $1.00 annually until it reaches $13.00 (2020) then by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for every year thereafter ONLY in Cook County.
  2. 70% of our residents DID NOT vote in favor of the $10 minimum wage and earned sick leave.  In 2014, when the Minimum Wage advisory question was on the ballot, Wilmette had a population of 27,371. 11,460 ballots were pulled by

Wilmette registered voters in this election.  7,457 voted in favor of a statewide $10 minimum wage.  In other words, 41.25% of Wilmette Residents voted in favor of the advisory question raising the minimum wage statewide to $10.00 per hours.  In 2016, when the earned sick leave advisory                                              question was on the ballot, Wilmette had a population of 27,219.  In the same year 20,113 were registered voters. 14,797 ballots were pulled by Wilmette

voters in this election. 10,956 voted in favor of earned sick leave.  In other words, 40.25% of Wilmette residents voted in favor of the advisory question.


TRUE:  “Cook County Commissioners enacted these ordinances despite knowing that they                               lacked the legal authority to do so, ignoring a written opinion letter from their own attorney which stated that the Illinois Supreme Court has been clear that such power rests exclusively with the State.  Like the County, under Illinois law, the Village of Wilmette also does not have the legal authority to enact its own minimum wage and                              sick leave policies” Village President Bob Bielinski’s letter in the Wilmette Communicator’s October 2017/January 2018 addition.

FALSE:  The Village of Wilmette enacted an ordinance on June 27, 2017 to “sneak a law in” skirt                                   around the ordinance.  The Village of Wilmette exercised their statutory right as a home rule community to enact a local ordinance to reflect the needs of the Village.  Additionally, as President Bob Bielinsky stated in his President’s letter on the issue, Cook County is in fact the body acting outside of the law as evidenced through these ordinances.

Bottom line, not one Wilmette resident or voter voted in favor of the Cook County ordinances the Village of Wilmette “opted out” of as the Cook County Board chose to exceed the direction of the advisory ballot questions and at the same time enacted a local ordinance to preserve the status quo, follow the law, of working conditions being governed by the state and federal law, not Cook County’s ordinances.


Furthermore, it should be noted, that the Cook County Board did not provide any studies or research quantifying the potential impact of the ordinances on suburban communities before enacting them.  “There were no working groups, no public meetings, no economic studies, no public participation in the process by community leaders, business leaders, labor leaders or local governement officials.” Village President Bob Bielinski’s letter in the Wilmette Communicator’s October 2017/January 2018 Additionally, neither the Wilmette Justice Team or the League of Women Voters provided any of the above before advocating for their positions.


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