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posted: 2/17/2017 5:20 AM

Business owners advise Elk Grove on county's minimum wage, sick time rules

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By Bob Chiarito
Daily Herald correspondent

With a decision on whether to go along with Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances a couple of months away, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson hosted a roundtable discussion with local business owners Thursday.

Elk Grove Village is home to approximately 3,600 businesses, and three representing a cross-section were on hand to give their input, along with a representative of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The three businessmen in attendance were Ken Jarosch, owner of Jarosch Bakery, Bill Koziel, CEO of FPM Heat Treating, and Kelly Hutchinson, owner of Home Instead Health Care.

One county ordinance increases the minimum wage in the county from the present $8.25 to $10 in July 2017, with a dollar increase per year until it hits $13 in 2020. The other allows part-time employees to accrue up to five days of paid sick leave each year.

Municipalities can opt out of the county ordinances.

Jonathan Buckner, a spokesman for Preckwinkle, said during the roundtable that the minimum wage increase is "the right thing to do" and said "$8.25 is not enough to live on for one person, let alone for several. The current cost of living in Cook County is $12.19 per hour so based on that, us raising it to $13 is not a windfall for anyone."

He added that the paid sick leave law goes hand in hand with the minimum wage increase, saying "there are people who risk their jobs every time they stay home sick."

The business owners, however, said the new rules would increase their costs and hurt their workers in the long run.

"We would employee fewer people and ask more of fewer employees," Hutchinson said.

His company, which provides home care to seniors, employs 200 people, 140 of whom work part time. He added that any mandatory wage increases would be passed on to his clients, many of whom can't afford it.

Koziel, whose company employs 80 people, said increasing the minimum wage would cause a ripple effect that his company would struggle to afford.

"If an employee who is making $11 an hour and has worked for several years to get there, the perception will be that they now deserve more than someone who starts right up at $10," Koziel said.

Jarosch, whose bakery employs 60 people, more than half of whom work part time, said if the minimum wage is increased, demand for his products may drop because of higher prices.

"I can raise prices and keep my revenue the same. But I wouldn't be selling as many items and wouldn't need as many people," he said.

Jarosch also echoed the concerns of all three business owners regarding sick days, saying the required record keeping would be too hard to keep straight.

"With full-time workers it's easy to see if they were sick. 'This guy worked 32 hours last week, he must have been sick one day,'" Jarosch explained. "For part-timers, their hours are all over the place."

Buckner said he has heard similar complaints from business owners in the past and understood their concerns.

"We empathize with the business owners on all these issues. With a county as large as Cook, there is no one-size-fits-all or perfect piece of legislation," Buckner said.

Johnson said the roundtable is the first of many discussions he wishes to have on the issue and expected his village trustees, most of whom were not present, to watch the video of the event.

He also encouraged workers to come to future discussions and village board meetings to make their voices heard.