Will County Board weighs raising minimum worker pay to at least $15 per hour

An official said raising the minimum wage to $15 would affect 88 county employees out of about 2,300 workers

Will County Board members discussed potentially raising the minimum pay for county employees to at least $15 per hour.

The issue came up during an Executive Committee meeting last Thursday when Speaker Mimi Cowan, D-Naperville, said it made sense to discuss the issue ahead of contract negotiations with the county employees union later this year. Plus the state’s minimum wage will continue to increase to $15 per hour by 2025.

There appeared to be a bipartisan appetite for raising the wages of the lowest-paid county employees. Member Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, argued the board should discuss a higher minimum pay for workers than $15 per hour, especially considering the effect of inflation on the economy.

“Why $15?” he said during the meeting. “Why not $16.50 or $17?”

Majority Leader Meta Mueller, D-Aurora, said she agreed with Moustis that the county should consider higher minimum pay. She also asked Bruce Tidwell, the county’s human resources director, how many employees would be affected by this raise in pay.

Tidwell told board members that 88 county employees make less than $15 per hour. The county employs about 2,300 people.

He added that a raise for those 88 employees to $15 per hour would cost the county about $200,000 per year.

Minority Leader Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, agreed it was worth discussing a minimum pay higher than $15 per hour because of the labor shortage. He warned that before members suggested higher wages, they should also consider the full cost of the benefits packages the county offers its employees.

“I think we need to get some data on that,” Fricilone said.

Member Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, said she was in favor of minimum pay higher than $15 per hour. She said residents with more money can use their spending power to patronize local businesses which would mean more benefits for everyone.

“We have to start closing the wage gap in America, in this county, in the state because it does not help our economy,” she said.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.