At the Sept. 26 Wilmette Village Board meeting and in the October-January edition of The Communicator, Village President Bob Bielinski made inaccurate and misleading statements about residents’ efforts to support a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave.
In the taxpayer-supported Communicator, Bielinski wrote without any evidence “that there are Wilmette residents who are organizing boycotts and retaliation against local businesses.” He made a similar accusation at the Village Board meeting. As organizers of the local drive to raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick leave, we’re unaware of any boycott efforts and would oppose any if there were.
In fact, we’re doing the opposite. The director of the Wilmette Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce has said that 99 percent of local businesses already pay a minimum wage of at least $10 an hour. On our website we say we’ll “encourage the public to support these businesses.” We want to counter negative perceptions in other suburbs, fueled by the Village Board’s vote to opt-out of Cook County’s minimum wage laws, that Wilmette is a low-wage community.
When the village encourages people to “Shop Wilmette,” it’s not encouraging people to boycott other communities. When businesses are organized as “fair trade” or “green,” they’re not threatening retaliation against other businesses. Likewise, our “Shop Fair Wilmette” is in no way an effort to organize a boycott or retaliation against any employer.
At the Sept. 26 meeting, Bielinski claimed that yard signs stating “Board said ‘no’ to $10” are “not accurate.” Sadly, they are accurate. Wilmette workers were set to receive a $10 minimum wage on July 1 until the board voted on June 27 to take that away. The simple fact is that workers in Evanston, Skokie, Kenilworth, Winnetka and Glencoe now receive at least $10 an hour and Wilmette workers don’t have that guarantee.
Finally, Bielinski said he objects to “people pulling national style politics” in Wilmette. What the Wilmette Justice Team has done is talk with neighbors, signed petitions, put up yard signs, and attended Village Board meetings. This isn’t “national style” politics; it’s the essence of local politics. Many of us have lived in Wilmette for decades; all of us care deeply about our community, including our businesses and their workers.
We’ve asked trustees to correct these misleading and inaccurate statements, but more than a week later we still haven’t received a response. We ask them to do so immediately.