Key City Panel Set to Consider Plan to Expand Workers’ Paid Time Off, a Measure Opposed by Business Groups

(Tiger Lily / Pexels)(Tiger Lily / Pexels)

All Chicago workers would be entitled to 12 days of paid time off under a proposal that faces a key test on Monday that could pit Chicago’s labor leaders against the city’s business community in a high-profile test for Mayor Brandon Johnson.

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If the measure is approved, Chicago workers would be entitled to more time off than workers in New York City and Los Angeles, and would be the first to earn time off for any reason, not just if they or a family member falls ill.

The proposal is at the core of the labor agenda for Johnson, a former organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union, who was elected with the unanimous support of Chicago’s progressive labor organizations.

The plan, authored by Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd Ward), is set for a vote at the 11 a.m. Monday meeting of the Workforce Development Committee. The original proposal, introduced in July, would have required Chicago employers to offer their workers one hour of paid leave for every 15 hours worked, regardless of whether they are sick, for a total of 15 days every year.

After negotiations with business groups, the coalition of labor groups agreed to change the proposal to require employers to offer workers six days of sick leave and six days of time off for any reason, sources told WTTW News.

Business groups said they would be willing to agree to five days of sick leave and five days of time off for any reason — but talks broke down over how fast employees would accumulate that time off, and whether employers could reject time-off requests or compensate employees with cash, officials said.

Unless a last-minute deal is reached, that could tee up a showdown between labor and business groups, less than a month after the Chicago City Council voted 36-10 to phase out the tipped minimum wage during the next five years as part of a compromise brokered with the Illinois Restaurant Association.

The proposal set for a vote Monday would inflict “a tremendous financial burden on every Chicago business,” according to a statement from a coalition of business groups led by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

“As City Council considers this paid leave ordinance, we urge them to also consider the despair this policy would inflict on Chicago neighborhoods as it will leave large, mid-sized, small businesses and non-profits alike with no choice but to take their operations elsewhere and incentivize employers to keep their employees out of Chicago,” according to the business groups.

Leaders of the effort to expand paid time off for Chicago workers said in a statement they were disappointed to see the leaders of Chicago’s business community “engage in desperate, over-the-top rhetoric” even though they had repeatedly reduced their demands in an attempt to reach a compromise.

“The current proposal is a sensible compromise that provides Chicago workers with reasonable paid time off, in line with many other cities around the country, while providing businesses with the flexibility needed to implement the ordinance,” according to the statement from the labor coalition.

Starting in 2024, a measure signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker will require employers statewide to give their workers at least one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked. That will entitle employees to five days of paid time off every year, for any reason, according to the law.

Because Chicago has a separate law, approved in 2016, requiring employers to give their employees paid sick leave, the state law exempts Chicago. Chicago employees earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours they work, or at least five days every year.

That measure passed after a fierce political battle and has not been adjusted since.

The state law also exempts employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement in the construction industry and parcel delivery industry, and Chicago’s ordinance would not trump labor agreements, officials said.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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