Evanston business owner fears negative repercussions of wage hike
While some Evanston employees will see a little fatter paychecks thanks to the recent minimum wage increase in Cook County, they might also find fewer places to spend the extra cash, according to a campaign strategist.
"This is not about greedy business owners who are penny-pinching and want to keep all of this profit for themselves," Bobby Burns of Powering Campaigns told the North Cook News. "I'm hearing people who have to make cuts, not because they want to but because they have to."
The increase in minimum wage to $10 started on July 1. Although 75 percent of Chicago's suburbs opted out of the hike, Evanston did not.
At Hecky's Barbecue, a local restaurant, owner Hecky Powell already paid 50 cents above minimum wage, but now fears he will have to lay off employees, especially as the rate climbs to $13 in three years.
"If this entry-level person is now getting $13 an hour, what do my folks who are in higher positions now expect and demand for their work?" Burns said.
Burns said the problem was more in the way the increase was handled and the fact that while small-business owners have to cut staff, costs or merchandise, the big box stores can more easily handle the wage increases, making it even harder for local shops.
"I think it's good to have a conversation about how we can raise wages for folks who are occupying low-level, low-skill jobs," Burns said. "The number one concern that I'm hearing seems to be the unfairness it creates in the marketplace: because every municipality in the county has not decided to opt in that it puts certain merchants at a disadvantage."
In fact, Burns said that what is most disheartening is that the wage increase is not happening at a state level, which would make it uniform and more acceptable.
"Right now the governor has a bill on his desk to increase minimum wages and to address paid sick leave, and a lot of business owners said, 'Let's see where that goes first before we make these types of decisions,'" Burns said.
The inability to offset costs for small-business owners is daunting, but the true extent of the wage increases has yet to unfold. Burns explained that things will become more challenging when the minimum wage reaches $12.
Burns is starting a coalition of small-business owners in the Evanston and Skokie area that he hopes will create positive reform and policies that could then be presented to county government. He invited interested parties to contact him at email@example.com.
"The county ordinance was never intended to tailor-fit every single municipality," Burns said.
While everyone had to choose between opting in or out of the wage hike, Burns that another option crafted by a non-partisan group might provide more fairness.
"We are trying to organize around a positive message; we want to talk about what we're for and not necessarily what we're against," Burns said.