by Bob Roman
The July 5th meeting of the Oak Park Village Board was faced with a delegation of several dozen Oak Park Fight for 15 workers and community supporters. The delegation came to demand that the Board pass an ordinance setting a minimum wage in Oak Park of $15 an hour. Like Chicago, Oak Park has this authority under the Home Rule provisions in Illinois law.
This was not the first visit to the Village Board by a Fight for 15 delegation. Oak Park prides itself on racial and ethnic integration and these occasions have made the Board nervous. Hiding behind the Village Attorney who opined that Oak Park really didn’t have the authority to set a minimum wage (and Chicago’s minimum wage is subject to legal challenge, therefore), the Board instead began moving toward adopting a Living Wage ordinance, much diluted from what had been advocated by the Greater Oak Park DSA branch.
(A Living Wage ordinance would apply to Village employees and, to one degree or another, to employees of entities doing business with the Village. A few workers benefit directly but it sets a community standard for what constitutes decent employment. A minimum wage applies to everyone.)
As GOPDSA member Ron Baiman told the Board that evening: Even the Living Wage ordinance proposed by DSA would be too little, too late. The world has moved on. If Oak Park values its progressive, integrated reputation, it’s now time to adopt a $15 an hour minimum wage.