After a month without a hearing or vote on paid sick leave, proponents are calling for Workforce Development and Audit Chair Pat O’Connor (40) to call up the ordinance, first introduced in April, but in the works for months. O’Connor said aldermen won’t hear it until after Springfield’s legislative session ends on May 31.
Several important Chicago issues, including school funding reform and SB 777, a bill reforming Police and Fire Pensions, await major moves from the governor and state legislators. And aldermen have been likewise occupied with big issues, including regulations on short-term rentals like Airbnb, police reform, additional licensing and background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers, and changes to the city’s zoning classification to create a neighborhood opportunity bonus.
But Ald. Ameya Pawar (47), the chair of the task force convened to research the issue, said paid sick and expanded medical leave is just as pressing. “There’s 460,000 people that don’t have access to paid sick leave, and quite frankly, a lot of us are tired of having to put their needs on the back burner for other issues,” Pawar told Aldertrack. “This issue is equally as important as reforms to the police department and CPS funding inequities, because they all impact the same people. We need a vote next month.”
Pawar stood with Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), lead ordinance sponsor Ald. Toni Foulkes (16), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), and paid sick leave proponents at a press conference ahead of yesterday’s City Council to call for a vote. The ordinance has 39 sponsors, and is the second attempt to pass paid sick leave since 2014. After a failed vote on that previous ordinance, the issue received overwhelming support in a 2015 ballot referendum. Mayor Emanuel convened a task force, the Working Families Working Group, to examine best practices shortly after, which took more than half a year to issue its recommendations.
Those recommendations were lambasted by two members of the task force–the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Both said paid sick leave is an added burden to businesses weighed down by rising property taxes and Chicago’s minimum wage.
“We’ve jumped through every hoop that the administration asked us to do, and now we’ve come to the end and we’re still waiting,” Ald. Foulkes said at the press conference. “It’s not fair for the working families of the city.”
Pawar wouldn’t speculate on the reason for the hold-up. “I think there’s a lot of moving parts in Springfield, and obviously the CPS issue,” he said, referring to Chicago Public Schools’ funding problems and Chicago interests in the stalled budget negotiations downstate.
Ald. O’Connor confirmed as much to Aldertrack. “We are looking at trying to see what happens in Springfield on a couple of the initiatives that the city has between now and the end of this month, which clearly would impact the city’s future and the city’s revenue picture. We don’t want to do anything that creates some kind of an excuse or some kind of a reason for Springfield to jump off some of the things we’re asking for,” he said. “If you harken back to the minimum wage, when we passed it, a lot of people in Springfield were pretty upset with us and pretty irate before they had a chance to say that we could do it or before they had a chance to pre-empt us.”
“Springfield’s dysfunction shouldn’t be an excuse for working families not being able to take a day off to care for themselves or a sick child,” said Zach Koutsky, Legislative & Political Director for UFCW Local 881. “Working families can’t wait for the stalemate in Springfield to end to pass Earned Sick Leave. The time to do so is now.”