Evanston workers to see $13 minimum wage by 2020

Sam Krevlin, Reporter

Evanston workers will see their minimum wage raised to $13 an hour over the next four years, after the Cook County Board approved the incremental increase on Wednesday.

Starting in July, wages will increase to $10 an hour. The wage will rise a dollar a year for the next two years. In 2020, all of Cook County will have a $13-an-hour minimum wage.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement that no one could live on the current $8.25 minimum wage.

“(The ordinance) phases in over time to provide flexibility for employers to adjust and minimize any impact on their bottom line,” Preckwinkle said. “There will always be opposition to proposals like this … At $13 an hour, no one will get rich. But that pay rate will help people pay their bills.”

Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin said the ordinance is a reflection of Chicago’s minimum wage laws. Suffredin said it is unfair for Evanston residents to have a lower minimum wage than their neighbors across Howard Street.

The commissioner said raising wages will allow residents to spend more on necessities and allow workers to feel better about their jobs. More than 220,000 workers will have higher wages because of the mandate, he said.

Theresa Mintle, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, issued a statement criticizing the ordinance. She said other mandates imposed by Cook County, including paid sick leave and a potential beverage tax will be costly to employers and end up hurting the economy.

“Each of these new mandates falls disproportionately hard on restaurants and retailers,” Mintle said in the statement. “It’s no wonder numerous municipalities within the county have already stated their desire to exempt themselves from this ordinance, which exacerbates the problem for those employers and employees inside Cook County dealing with the patchwork of rules and regulations.”

Because of concerns such as these, some Cook County districts discussed opting out of the minimum wage law using a home-rule provision, which allows municipalities to choose whether or not to adopt the ordinance. Pascal Brixel of the People’s Lobby, a liberal lobbying group, said municipalities would be making a mistake by not achieving consistency throughout Cook County. He said the point of the raising the minimum wage in the suburbs was to extend Chicago’s ruling from 2014.

“There have been claims made that municipalities could opt out of this particular legislation,” Brixel said. “Any local government that makes such a choice … would be doing a great disservice to its own residents, its own struggling low-income people.”

Brixel said that although raising the minimum wage is a good first step, the increase is still not enough.

Many people with two to three jobs may still barely have enough money to feed their children and send them to school, Brixel said. Raising the minimum wage, he said, will end up helping the overall economy.

“When you put more money in the pockets of working people, in this case full-time, minimum wage workers having roughly 10,000 dollars a year more, they will spend money in the local economy that will boost sales and demand in the economy and create jobs,” Brixel said.

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