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Council puts minimum wage on the agenda

Vote to opt out of County hike is scheduled for June 12

June 6th, 2017 2:24 PM

Updated: Jun. 6th, 2017 2:49 PM

By Thomas Vogel

Contributing Reporter

The Forest Park Village Council could vote to opt out of the recently passed Cook County minimum wage hike at its upcoming June 12 county meeting, according to Village Administrator Tim Gillian.

The ordinance, adopted in October 2016 and effective July 1, 2017, increases the minimum hourly wage to $10, a $1.75 bump from the current $8.25 per hour rate. The ordinance also requires a $1.00 raise for the next three years. By summer 2020, then, the Cook County minimum wage will be $13 per hour. If the council opts out of the ordinance, Forest Park will join a growing list of communities choosing to forgo the pay raise, including neighboring Riverside, River Forest, Bellwood and Maywood.

According to the Illinois Constitution, if a Cook County and local municipal ordinance conflict, the municipal law wins out.

Gillian said the village has received several letters advocating for an opt-out from some of the village's big employers, including Farmington Foods, Ferrara Pan Candy Company and McAdam Landscaping.

The Forest Park Chamber of Commerce also submitted a letter of support for opting-out, Gillian said.

McAdam Landscaping co-owner Scott McAdam, in a June 6 phonecall, acknowledged it is tough for workers to live on minimum wage earnings. But, he's against the county ordinance, which legislates a yearly pay increase through 2020.  

The bump in pay, McAdam said, would have a ripple effect, likely compelling other workers, paid at higher rates, to also ask for raises. McAdam said his business, and others like it, have been struggling since the 2008-2009 recession and there is not much more room to absorb added labor costs.  

He'd prefer the market decide wages, not legislation. McAdam added he already pays his 60 or so hourly employees above minimum wage.

"I'm not against people making more money. My god I'm not," McAdam said. "I am against being forced into this on a yearly basis."

A call to the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce was not returned by press time.

Farmington Foods CFO and co-owner Albert La Valle did not return a request for comment by press time.

An emailed request for comment to Ferrara Candy Company was also not returned by press time.

This story has been updated to reflect comments by McAdam.