By Jonathan De Leon
An increase in the minimum wage for Cook County workers has employees in Berwyn happy and business leaders shaken.
Almost half a million workers in suburbs and unincorporated areas would be affected. Every July the minimum wage will increase progressively from $8.25 now to $13 in 2020. Starting July 1, 2017, the wage will increase to $10 an hour and then by $1 each year after.
Ashton, who asked his last name not to be used, is a CVS employee in Berwyn who approved of the wage increase.
“How is it fair that the property taxes, rent and stuff cost so much but the payment to live in the area is so low,” he said. “Studios (apartments) start at what, $700? Wage is what $9? Even if you work 40 hours a week you still can’t afford that.”
Ashton made it clear if employers can live in expensive suburbs like Oak Park, they can afford to pay people what they deserve elsewhere in the county.
However, a Berwyn Marshalls’ employee was conflicted on the increase.
“It helps but you can have a better job where you are doing less things and getting paid more”, said the employee, who declined to give her name. “I feel like I do a lot here and don’t get paid enough.”
Anthony Griffin, executive director of Berwyn Development Corp. (BDC) said, “There was no advance notice about the new ordinances.” They were just passed last week so “there has to be time to go over the details” and allow a plan to come together.
Berwyn businesses will be facing the same challenges as those in other Cook County towns.
Republican County Board Commissioner Sean Morrison, who represents the 17th District, opposed the new ordinances in a letter to Suburban Life newspapers.
“Businesses were not informed of this huge cost increase nor did they have an opportunity to prepare or budget for it,” he said. “With their yearly budgets already set, they will now be forced to increase their staff salaries by 27 percent literally overnight and 58 percent over the next 20 months. Recent actions… will be devastating to our local economy and will no doubt shutter the doors of many businesses along with the loss of numerous jobs for our hardworking residents.”
Morrison also believes Cook County lacks the “home rule authority” to power the ordinances.
The City of Chicago passed similar ordinances back in June and now Cook County follows its footsteps.