Well, it was no 12-minute meeting this time.
Twelve minutes is the time it took to conduct Calumet City’s business at a regularly scheduled council meeting I attended a month or two ago.
Last week’s meeting lasted much longer and was immeasurably more intense.
Approximately 20 people, organized to some degree by a group called Immigrant Workers Project, attended, and has been attending, city council meetings to encourage the council to opt into Cook County’s minimum wage increase ordinance.
Cook County, in its political savvy, had a way for individual communities to opt out of the ordinance. Most cities, except for Dolton, did so. Many cities in the South Suburbs are afraid raising the minimum wage will hurt already struggling businesses in their communities.
At an earlier meeting, the council quietly opted out of the Cook County ordinance in a vote that was bundled with votes for unrelated items. Folks there, including an alderman or two, didn’t really realize what had happened.
Protests and complaints followed and the mayor/council agreed to have another vote at a later meeting where they would separately accept or reject that ordinance.
When that vote came last week, and the acceptance of the ordinance was rejected by a 5-2 vote, the crowd, who made it clear in the pre-meeting public comments that they were in vigorous support of the ordinance, erupted in a loud and prolonged show of disapproval.
The mayor and council recessed the meeting and left for the mayor’s meeting room. The protests continued. After maybe 20 minutes I noticed four or five police quietly enter the chamber. The two officers already at the meeting talked with the dissenters, and the group left, fairly calm, but unmistakably unhappy.
They promised they would attend future meetings of the city council.
As you may well know, this battle for raising the minimum wage is raging throughout the country. In Calumet City it has some complicating factors.
One for sure is that two referendums endorsing a substantial raise of the minimum wage were on the ballot in Cal City last election. Both passed by over 80 percent.
The working poor of Calumet City would undoubtedly spend an increase in their pay. Most likely, in Cal City.
But there is the fear that increased expenses for businesses would drive more of them to close or, as happens too often, move to Indiana.
I went to Best Buy yesterday and saw a sign announcing its closing later this month. Best Buy representatives made it clear that the closing was largely because of fewer customers due to the better tax situation in Indiana. They are not closing their two stores there.
Minimum wage increase is a tough call in our country, maybe an even tougher one in Calumet City.
EVENT COMING: Lions Club pancake breakfast this Sunday at TF North 8am -1pm. Be there.
Thanks for reading.