Oak Park business suggests city turns deaf ear to wage hike worries
Oak Park has decided not to decide.
As a countywide minimum wage increase looms on the suburban communities of Cook County, the Village of Oak Park Board officially backed off from discussing whether to opt out of the hike.
Starting on July 1, the minimum wage in Cook County will be increased annually by $1 until 2020, when it hits $13. Thereafter, the county will determine the next increase for the years following.
The board removed the topic from its recent meeting agenda after public outcry, according to OakPark.com. Some municipalities have opted out of the hike, and trustee Deno Andrews wanted to let local businesses be heard.
"I don't believe there would be a single vote [on the board] to opt out, but it doesn't negate the inherent issues with the law and how it would affect local businesses," Andrews told OakPark.com.
While that might be true, not all business owners see the increase as a positive.
Kim Humphrey, owner of Bead In Hand at 145 Harrison Street, told the West Cook News that she sees the entire situation as the city reneging by not allowing discussion except through social media. Trustees as well as some of the city's leaders made comments online, but the discussion did not translate to a board meeting topic.
“Annoyed fits the bill," she said in an email. "Making a decision that affects ALL businesses via Facebook and, I don't know, comments from neighbors, is not my idea of government in action. Oh wait, maybe that's government in action. That about covers it.”
Various business owners with storefronts along Oak Park’s main commercial area have voiced their concern about the minimum wage and sick leave ordinances' potential effects on their bottom line. Other concerns include hiring and retaining summer labor, current employees’ wages and cost of merchandise.
Trustee Dan Moroney was one of the first elected officials to air his concerns about the municipality not opting out of the minimum wage. On his Facebook page, Moroney indicated that despite his public support for an increased minimum wage, he worries that local business owners will suffer.
“Additionally, I believe many businesses would respond to this mandate by reducing staff that is commonly filled with teenagers, seniors, and people with disabilities,” Moroney said in a post. “Furthermore, Oak Park will be at a competitive disadvantage in attracting businesses over neighboring communities that have chosen to opt out.”