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Homewood opts out of county minimum wage ordinance

The Homewood village board voted to buck the Cook County minimum wage hike at its May 23 meeting.

In October, the Cook County Board approved a gradual minimum wage increase to $13 per hour by 2020. Further increases up to 2.5 percent based on the consumer price index would come after 2020. The county ordinance also requires at least one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked.

The initial bump to $10 an hour, as well as the sick time requirements, begins July 1. The county allowed communities to opt out of the increases before that date.

Almost two dozen towns have already opted out, and more will put it to a vote in the coming weeks. Calumet City put the question to voters in the April 4 election. That referendum was overwhelmingly approved.

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The Homewood village board voted unanimously to opt out of the county ordinance, with Trustees Anne Colton and Jay Heiferman absent. The minimum wage in the village will remain at the state’s regulation of $8.25 and village businesses won’t need to abide by the sick pay rules.

Several local business owners attended Tuesday’s board meeting in support of the board choosing to opt out.

“Adhering to the state minimum wage, I think is a very fair and balanced thing for us to do in this area considering how far south we are in Cook County,” Jack Rush said. “The minimum wage that we have right now does really well for us to hire local, young, high school kids and have this be a first starting job for them.”

Rush said he owns the Culver’s restaurant at 850 West 183rd Street. He and his partners also own Culver’s locations in Tinley Park, Matteson and Orland Park. He said raising the wage to $13 would cause him to raise his prices.

Rush said that his employees often make more than $13 per hour when they reach management-level positions at “18, 19, 20 years old.”

Dale Coerper, who owns the Jimmy Johns at 18048 S Halsted Street, echoed Rush’s comments.

“The way we look at it, the more of our local kids we can employ, the better,” Coerper said. “It’s a high school thing.”

Christine Lott owns both Homewood McDonald’s restaurants with her husband Derrick.

“McDonald’s, over the next few years, has some very broad visions of the things that will change in our restaurants and a lot of them are very labor intensive,” Lott said. “With (the minimum wage increase and paid sick leave) pending through the county, it’s going to make it very difficult. We’ll look at things that are more automated which will then replace employees and we won’t be hiring as much or a reduction of hours.”

Trustee Larry Burnson empathized with the business owners.

“I appreciate all the businesses coming up today,” he said. “I understand people wanting to try to raise the minimum wage, but I’m a firm believer that that’s the job of the state and the federal government to deal with. I think when you go down further in government, having the county look at it, then potentially the municipalities, it’s putting too much on local businesses.”

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