Arlington Heights mayor: Cook County labor ordinances 'not manageable' for individual municipalities

By Dee Thompson | May 15, 2017

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS — The village of Arlington Heights has become one of the latest Cook County suburbs to opt out of the county's mininum wage and mandatory paid sick leave ordinances. 

And the mayor of  Illinois' 13th-largest municipality said the village board did so out of concerns for the impact of those ordinances on the village's businesses, who told village officials they feared the ordinances would create an unlevel playing field for the community against competitors in neighboring counties. 

Arlington Heights, located about 26 miles from Chicago, has many residents that commute to the city, including Mayor Tom Hayes, who sided with the majority to opt out. He spoke to the Cook County Record about the May 1 vote. 

“It was a close vote," Hayes said. "It was 5-4, but the primary reason that I gave and I think that the majority of the board gave is that we really felt these types of benefits should be done at the state or federal level. It’s just not manageable for local businesses to be subject to municipal ordinances that set minimum wage levels or mandate sick leave requirements on a piecemeal basis.” 

Hayes added, “If you look at minimum wage laws through the country, at least the research that I’ve found, there were only 27 lower-level governments that set minimum wages. It should be done at the much larger level of a state or a federal government so there’s a uniformity and a level playing field for all businesses.”

Hayes said the impetus for the vote came from local businesses, which didn’t want to be at a disadvantage when it came to hiring. 

“It was done originally at the request of businesses and our Chamber of Commerce," he said. "They felt it would be an unfair advantage for them to be subject to these county ordinances that might not be applied in a neighboring county. Our businesses were concerned that potential employees could go elsewhere and not be subject to ordinances like this in another county."

As Hayes pointed out, not all businesses would be subject to the same laws. 

“One of the problems with these ordinances is they exempted governmental bodies and some other types of businesses from the requirements," he said. "I’m not sure it was well thought-out in terms of who it might apply to, so we had some concerns there as well."

Four board members opposed the opt-out, but Hayes said he couldn't speak to their reasons for supporting the county ordinances. 

“We represent all members of the community, regardless of their political persuasions," he said. "Generally, we deal with non-partisan issues that have nothing to do with political philosophy. We deal primarily with the provisions on basic services—fire and public works. We generally don’t discuss political or social issues. This one was a little different."

Hayes explained his vote to opt out by again stating his disagreement with labor ordinances at the county level. 

“One of the things I based my vote on was that I didn’t think it was right for a county to regulate a private business in this way," he said. "I think the majority of us preferred that businesses be allowed to run their businesses in the way they see fit, without governmental regulation. I think the majority of the board voted that way for the same reason.”

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