Cook County passes wage theft ordinance

Tori Latham, Assistant City Editor

The Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a new ordinance to address the issue of wage theft, making the county the largest in the nation to do so, the county announced Tuesday.

Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski, who represents the 16th district, introduced the legislation, which will affect companies and individuals found guilty of wage theft. Entities found guilty will not be allowed to obtain Cook County procurement contracts, businesses licenses or property tax incentives for five years.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle co-sponsored the ordinance, and said the past few years have been especially difficult for low-wage employees.

“Unscrupulous business owners have exploited low-wage workers by refusing to pay overtime, classifying legal employees as independent contractors, paying less than minimum wage, and, in some instances, even refusing to pay wages outright,” Preckwinkle said in a news release. “This is unfair to hard-working employees and their families and it’s unfair to competing businesses which are operating within the confines of the law.”

Tobolski said employers steal millions of dollars in wages from their workers every year.

“Businesses who take advantage of Cook County workers should not benefit from Cook County contracts, licenses and property tax incentives,” Tobolski said in the news release.

The legislation was celebrated by Arise Chicago, an organization that works to create relationships between faith communities and employees to fight against workplace injustice.

“For businesses and working people to thrive in Cook County, we need to be morally grounded in our business ethics,” Arise Chicago executive director Rev. C.J. Hawking said in the announcement. “We applaud Commissioner Tobolski and President Preckwinkle for their leadership on this ordinance, which is a building block in making Cook County the most ethical place in the country to do business.”

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