Chairman John Jacoby called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
Members present: Brian Fabes, Therese Steinken, Beth Lambrecht, John Jacoby, John Haser, Laura Saleh Absent: George Rafeedie Staff Present: Michael Braiman and John Prejzner
After approval of the last meeting’s minutes, Chairman Jacoby opened by noting the letter sent by the League of Women Voters. He asked League President Allyson Haut, to address the group. Allyson said that the letter related to the overall timing of the committee’s work. Based on earlier comments from the Working group and Finance Committee that ideal timing would be to complete this work prior to the next step-up in minimum wage on July 1, the League is encouraging the working group to adhere to a timeline that allows their report adequate time for completion and delivery to the Finance Committee and subsequently to the Village Trustees in advance of that date. She also suggested that there is utility in the working group having a joint meeting with the Finance Committee to present a draft report and give the committee adequate time to ask for clarifications.
Mike Braiman discussed the working group timeline provided in the evening’s agenda. At the next meeting on March 19th the working group will hear a presentation from Women Employed and review data from the Cook County Commission on Human Rights, Employee and Employer Demographics, and from local clergy. Village Staff will also present data from communities bordering Wilmette that have not opted out of the ordinances. They will also begin formulating the resident survey which will go out in early to mid-April following school breaks. At the April 9 meeting, the working group will review results from the business survey. Approximately 220 businesses have completed the survey to date. The resident survey results will be presented at the last scheduled meeting of the group on April 30.
Mr. Braiman also announced that he and Chairman Jacoby will meet with members of the finance committee at 6:30 on March 19, prior to the working group’s next meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to present the questions the working group has formulated to ensure they are on the right track. Mr. Braiman will also report working group status to the Village Board in April. Additionally, he is working to schedule a meeting of the Village Board’s Committee of the Whole in May to present the working group’s final report.
RESIDENTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO CONTACT THE WORKING GROUP WITH SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR THE RESIDENT SURVEY
REVIEW OF MINIMUM WAGE QUESTIONS TO ANSWER AND STUDIES TO INCLUDE
The majority of the meeting was spent discussing six questions to answer regarding minimum wage, why the questions matter and studies under consideration to answer them.
The group considered including “Where Workers Work” a 2017 study from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. It was agreed that this study should not be included, and the question should instead be answered by more specific data requested from IDES as well as by the survey of Wilmette business owners.
2. What businesses would be impacted by a change in the minimum wage?
Why does this matter? To understand the businesses that will be impacted by the change in minimum wage. The Village has approximately 560 licensed businesses and some sectors tend to have more and some fewer minimum wage workers. The Cook County Ordinance exempts businesses with less than 4 employees, employees under the age of 18, employees working less than 90 days, and has different pay regulations for tipped employees. Understanding the businesses impacted by the Ordinance will help answer Question #5 below (what are the impacts to Wilmette businesses).
Mike Braiman reported that the Village’s Business Development Coordinator will present Wilmette-specific business demographics at the March 19 meeting. The working group’s survey of Wilmette businesses will also help to answer this question.
3.What is the cost of living in Wilmette and other places where Wilmette's low-wage workers live vs. other regions of the State? What constitutes a “living wage” (in terms of hourly rate equivalent) for workers living in Cook County? How do the current proposed minimum wage rates compare to the generally accepted “living wage” in Cook County?
Why does this matter? The rationale for a higher minimum wage is that those who work full-time and depend on work to support their families should not, because of a low wage rate, be forced to live in poverty or rely on public assistance; i.e., they should earn a “living wage.” The primary rationale for a minimum wage that is different in one region of a state vs. another is that the cost of living (and hence what defines a “living wage”) can differ by region.
The group discussed including the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s “Out of Reach 2017 - The High Cost of Housing (2017). It was noted that this study may not be as relevant as information to be presented at the March 19 meeting from the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis and the MIT Living/Minimum Subsistence Wage Calculator.
A member of the public commented that data on wage sectors in Cook County versus the rest of Illinois may be available from the University of Illinois. Ms. Steinken noted that data from the National Employment Law Project could also be helpful in answering this question, and it was agreed to consider that information after hearing the other presentations noted above. Finally, Mr. Haser asked if the committee is charged with studying living wage or minimum wage, stating that the minimum wage ordinance is his understanding of the working group’s focus. The committee discussed that a factor in determining a fair minimum wage is understanding the financial situation of the workers. Further discussion will take place following the living wage presentation at the meeting on March 19.
4. What is the impact of increasing the minimum wage on employees in Wilmette?
Why does this matter? The primary rationale for raising the minimum wage for employees is that it will increase the opportunity for work to serve as a path out of poverty and allow those who work to support the basic needs of themselves and their families. A concern with raising the minimum wage for employees could be that some low wage jobs may be lost or the hours of work of some employees may be reduced.
Jeff Axelrod, a member of the community expressed concern about stating “some jobs may be lost.” He said that he is concerned that this language could be perceived as biased. Mr. Braiman explained that the goal in the “why it matters” section of each question is to avoid bias by presenting both sides of the question. It was suggested that the language “could be impacted” might be more neutral than “loss,” but Mr. Braiman felt it was important to present both the positive and the negative view to the trustees.
Another community member, Jon Marshall, suggested including another positive impact in the “why it matters” section as he detailed in a letter to the working group. He suggested stating that raising minimum wage gives workers more money to spend, providing a boost to the economy. The working group agreed that this statement was more relevant to Question 6 - “what is the impact on the community.”
Next, Chairman Jacoby invited Mr. Marshall to share a framework he had proposed for prioritizing the studies under consideration to include in the report. Mr. Marshall noted that he is on the faculty at Northwestern and proposed an academic approach:
Mr. Marshall also noted that some of the studies under consideration are meta-studies that consider a body of prior work versus studies that offer findings from one academic or group of academics. He suggested prioritizing meta-studies, with the highest priority on meta-studies that are peer reviewed.
Another community member, Gina Kennedy, had additional comments about the studies under consideration. She encouraged the working group to consider the source of each study and whether the publication had any ideological perspective.
Working group member Brian Fabes suggested that the committee select studies with the least bias vs. studies that support a particular conclusion.
With the community’s feedback, the working group determined that the following would be included:
The working group elected NOT to include the other three proposed studies:
Mr. Braiman noted that Village Staff will be working to determine whether there are relevant minimum wage studies which address border impacts of wage and hour laws.
Any information they find will be reviewed at the next meetings. The group then discussed recommended studies to answer this question. The group agreed not to include two studies previously removed from Question 4 from the National Employment Law Project and from Schmitt. There was significant discussion of a study by Luca and Luca - “Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit,” (2017) . Although there were some concerns about the methodology of the study, the group decided to include it because it is the only study found that attempts to address the impact of minimum wage upon business viability. Brian Fabes cautioned the group to consider that there may not be other studies because there are no other researchers who have reached the conclusions in this study.
6. What is the impact of increasing the minimum wage on Wilmette as a community?
Why does this matter? There are a number of possible impacts to the community of raising or not raising the minimum wage which may include but are not limited to the following: 1) Raising the minimum wage might lead to increased prices for goods and services and uncertainty whether customers will continue to patronize businesses; 2) Not raising the minimum wage might diminish the perception of Wilmette as a thriving community that values the welfare of its workers; 3) Raising the minimum wage might diminish the perception of Wilmette as an economically attractive place to do business and might present an obstacle to the Village’s future economic development efforts and ability to recruit new businesses; 4) Raising the minimum wage would be consistent with the outcome of the 2014 statewide advisory referendum in Wilmette, although the minimum wage rate presented in that referendum ($10 per hour effective January 1, 2015 on a statewide basis) is different from the minimum wage rates contained in the County's minimum wage ordinance (new data regarding residents' opinion of an increased minimum wage will be provided via a phone survey).
Jon Marshall asked the group to consider including his previous suggestion about a positive economic impact of raising the minimum wage and giving workers more money to spend. He will send the group a study that supports this claim. The group then reviewed the other sources of data they can use in answering this question. (1) the resident phone survey, (2) the business survey, (3) conversations with local clergy, (4) brokers/landlords, and (5) businesses in surrounding North Shore communities. This question is specific to Wilmette and cannot be answered by peer reviewed studies.
Trustee Joel Kurzman, who was part of the audience, asked the working group to consider studying how people outside Wilmette - especially prospective home buyers - might perceive communities that opt-out of the ordinances. He suggested that there may be data from political polling about how residents choose the communities where they live. Chairman Jacoby said that surveying Wilmette residents about their values for the community will answer those questions.
With no other comments from the group or the public the meeting was adjourned. The remaining working group meetings are: March 19, April 9 and April 30.