Mayor Steve Hagerty on July 10 called for a workshop to explain the ins and outs of the new Cook County Minimum Wage and Sick Leave ordinance, and called on Cook County to work with the City in conducting it. The workshop comes on the heels of hundreds of citizens demanding the City decide not to opt out of the ordinance, and dozens of local businesses expressing confusion and concern over the administrative workings of the new law.
“My concern is more on the sick leave and how to calculate that,” said Mayor Hagerty. He said Evanston should work with the County to “make sure people understand the rules.” The administrative side of sick leave calculations left many confused, he said.
“We have not really heard from the business community, from the retail side and industrial side,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward. He agreed the workshop was a good idea and that Cook County should be involved.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, laid everything at the feet of what she called a “broken” ordinance. “Before the City expends any effort to help local businesses deal with the sick leave [provisions of the Cook County Ordinance], we ought to contact the County to see if they can rework” it. Evanston should not “help fix something that is so broken when it is their [Cook County’s] ordinance,” she said.
Linda Larkin, Executive Director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber has “invited someone from Cook County to speak at Rotary” at 6:00 p.m.
“Interpretive and Procedural Rules Governing the Cook County Sick Leave Ordinance,” a document prepared by and distributed by Cook County, runs 51 pages. The document contains a four-page table of contents and three pages of definitions. Some in the business community have found the Ordinance frustrating and confusing.
“Administratively, it will be a problem,” said Tom Ward of Ward Manufacturing, a West Evanston manufacturing facility, Mr. Ward says, has been in operation for more than 65 years and employs 50 people. “This ordinance will cost us approximately $50,000 a year in sick leave. On top of that, loss of production” on days when employees are out will cause even more loss. “I’m not sure anyone did the math” when proposing the ordinance. “Small business is going to struggle with this.”
Also speaking at Public Comment, Irv Chocol summed up fears, saying, “It could have unintended consequences. It could be a mistake.”
No date has been set for the proposed workshop.
Mayor Hagerty praised the work of Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, in finding ways to get more City of Evanston contracts in the hands of Evanston businesses. “A partnership has been formed with the Chamber of Commerce” and the City’s MWEBE [Minority-,Woman-, and Evanston-Based Enterprises]Committee,” said Mayor Hagerty. “Of the approximately $13 million the City spends on contracts under $20,000, about $7.6 million goes to businesses outside of Evanston.The partnership’s goal is to keep that money in the City, and in so doing help our small businesses thrive.”
Mr. Bobkiewicz was directed to develop an action plan to assist Evanston minimum wage workers and their employers and will return to Council on Sept. 18 with a status report.