So, on Monday night more than a dozen Brookfield residents – no, they weren’t agitators imported from somewhere else to stir up trouble – stood up and stated their support for a pair of laws passed by the Cook County Board last year.
Both of the laws – one that would gradually raise the minimum wage to $13 by 2020 and another that would allow hourly workers the ability to accrue up to five days of paid sick leave – were the subjects of advisory referenda in the past three years. In both of the referenda, the measures received overwhelming support from local voters.
The residents that appeared at the village board’s committee of the whole meeting were sincere and laid out a good case for why the village ought to let the county laws go into effect on July 1.
Opponents were nowhere to be found. Not because they don’t exist, because they do. And members of the village board, strangely, sat silent. After residents’ had their say, trustees had every opportunity to kick the subject around.
After all, this was a meeting of the committee of the whole, where no votes are taken, but where issues can be examined and debated. There were a few questions regarding legal opinions and how such a law might affect an employer like the Brookfield Zoo, which straddles two municipal boundaries.
But no one took a stand. Perhaps stands will be taken when trustees cast their votes on June 26.
To us, it’s revealing that no one dared publicly argue for opting out of the county laws, which seek to raise a laughable $8.25 an hour minimum wage to a not-as-laughable-but-still-pretty-darn-low $10 in 2017.
Why? According to an email sent out by the chamber earlier on Monday, it was in no one’s best interest to have an open debate on the issue. Doing that would “only sensationalize the issue and bring more attention to it,” the email said.
Actually, what it would do is reveal opting out as indefensible, and no one wants to be on that side of an argument.
We predict that the village board will vote to opt out, with trustees making prepared statements referring to the state’s responsibility in setting a minimum wage and the unfairness of the county’s law, which creates a patchwork of towns which do and do not embrace higher wages and accrued sick time, sowing ill will among neighbors.
Be a leader, Brookfield. Demonstrate that those earning a minimum wage aren’t workers who deserve minimum consideration.