Vote Delayed on Plan to Expand Workers’ Paid Time Off Amid Fierce Push Back by Chicago Business Groups

Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Allies of Mayor Brandon Johnson delayed a vote Monday on a proposal to require employers to offer their workers 12 days of paid time off in the face of fierce opposition from Chicago’s business community.

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Representatives of labor organizations and workers’ rights groups urged the City Council’s Workforce Development Committee to endorse the plan, which would entitle Chicago workers to more sick leave than workers in New York City and Los Angeles and permit them to take time off for any reason, not just if they or a family member falls ill.

But business groups said the proposal would harm small companies and allow employees to accrue too much time off too quickly, imperiling businesses and Chicago’s economy.

After a spirited debate and a lengthy delay to explore whether a compromise could be reached quickly, Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd Ward) recessed the meeting of the Workforce Development Committee until 9:30 a.m. Thursday, likely delaying a final vote by the City Council for at least two weeks.

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.

Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter, Jr., called the proposal “good policy.”

“What we have on the table is reasonable,” Reiter said.

That plan would require employers to offer workers six days of sick leave and six days of time off for any reason. It would take effect on Dec. 31, and violations could trigger fines of at least $1,000 and no more than $3,000. Starting July 1, Chicagoans could sue businesses for violations as well.

However, Brad Tietz, vice president for government relations and strategy for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said the plan should be revised to allow employees 10 days of sick leave if they work for large companies and exempt small businesses entirely. In addition, business groups want the new law to take effect no sooner than Dec. 31, 2024.

“Ten days of sick leave is going to harm small businesses,” Tietz said. “This pits big labor against small business and goes too far, too quickly.”

However, Deputy Mayor for Labor Relations Bridget Early urged the committee to pass the revised proposal, which she said represented a significant attempt to compromise with business groups. That plan 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.

“Workers should not have to choose between their health and financial security,” Early said.

Early said the measure would especially benefit Black and Latina women, who often serve as their family’s primary breadwinner, while increasing gender equity in Chicago’s workforce and increasing productivity.

In addition, the two sides disagree on how employees would accumulate that time off, and whether employers could reject time-off requests or compensate employees with cash once they leave the job, officials said.

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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