A years long fight for paid sick leave regulations culminates in a committee hearing at 10:00 a.m. today, led by Workforce Development and Audit chair Ald. Pat O’Connor (40). The regulations, first introduced in 2014, were the subject of a non-binding ballot referendum in the 2015 election, a months-long examination from a blue ribbon task force, and were further delayed when Ald. O’Connor said he wanted to wait until the end of the legislative session in Springfield. The rules would mandate that Chicago employers provide up to five days worth of earned sick time to their employees.

The ordinance has 38 co-sponsors, the backing of a coalition of labor and interest groupslocal state legislators, and support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Credit where credit’s due, the Mayor’s office has indicated that this is something they truly want,” Zach Koutsky, UFCW Local 881’s Legislative & Political Director told Aldertrack yesterday. “Despite the Chamber and IRMA furiously trying to derail it, I think we’re feeling good.”

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), both participants in the Working Families Task Force convened by the Mayor to issue recommendations on sick leave, have blasted the ordinance. In an minority report issued the same weekend as the 40 page Working Families Task Force report, the business groups said the recommendations hit businesses already reeling from the city’s minimum wage hike, increased local sales and property taxes, and used “biased assumptions” when calculating the cost to businesses. The working group estimated instituting paid sick leave would lead to less than a 0.7-1.5% increase in labor costs for most employers.

The recommendations are more conservative than the ordinance first pitched in 2014.

Employees will have to work 40 hours to accrue one hour of sick leave (up from 30 hours in the original paid sick leave ordinance), new hires will have to wait twice as long to utilize a paid sick day, and the total number of sick days available would be capped at five, down from nine.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) told Aldertrack in April this ordinance isn’t as progressive as he would have liked, but his job was to reach consensus. “I think we came up with a very balanced, and a more pro-business proposal [than the first ordinance]. My own personal politics would lean further to the left on this.”

Last month, Pawar said the issue held as much importance as school funding or reform to the police department. “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 backburner for other issues.”

Ladky, Pawar, and Koutsky have pointed to the Illinois Restaurant Association’s neutral stance on the issue as proof. Sam Toia, the Association’s President and CEO, sat on the task force.

If the ordinance passes the full City Council June 22, it would go into effect on September 20, and would be enforced by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Important provisions:

  • Any covered employee who works at least 80 hours for an Employer within any 120-day period is eligible to accrue leave time.
  • Every 40 hours worked will equal one hour of accrued paid sick leave.
  • Every year, employees can carry over half of their accrued leave to use the next year (since leave is capped at 40 hours per year, the maximum would be 20 hours. Employers can set their own higher caps). If an employer is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), covered employees can carry over up to 40 hours of unused paid sick leave exclusively for FMLA purposes.
  • Employers would not have to pay out unused sick days.
  • Benefits that are negotiated as part of a collective bargaining agreement are exempt.

Tanya Triche, Vice-President and General Counsel for IRMA, told Aldertrack she has been meeting with ordinance sponsors and the Mayor’s office to lobby for changes, even meeting with the Mayor’s staff yesterday evening. While she’s near certain the ordinance will pass today, she hopes there will be changes added to the ordinance before the June 22nd meeting that would simplify the process for employers.

“I think [the Mayor’s Office] has probably learned through Airbnb, through Uber, all these last minute attempts to pass something, if you just take the time to make sure that you’ve heard all the issues, make sure you figure out how to serve both communities… It should at least be written in a way that the employers can at the very least comply and comply without the fear of having a bunch of lawsuits filed against them.”

IRMA would like the city to drop the provision that allows employees to carry over accrued sick time to use for FMLA. Instead, they’d like employees to get all five sick days upfront, and for employers to choose their benefit start date. “When you start accruing, carrying over, banking time separately, that makes things very complicated.” Triche said throughout task force working groups, employers said the city rarely gives them tools to carry out mandates, leaving small HR operations to figure out benefits themselves and leaving businesses vulnerable to lawsuits–a nuance she says is likely lost on aldermen who might have trouble voting against such a popular policy.

“I think what needs to be emphasized is that there’s no doubt that a number, dare I say the majority of aldermen want some kind of employer paid sick leave mandate. And dare I say, the majority of these aldermen don’t really know what’s in this ordinance.”

UFCW’s Koutsky argues IRMA and the Chamber are just using scare tactics, and the ordinance is a good, hard fought compromise. “We’re just making sure we get a quorum for the committee. Attendance is always a struggle. If everybody shows up on the committee, even the folks that are just co-sponsors, we’ve got it,” he said yesterday.

Nine of the 18 members of the committee are co-sponsors of the ordinance: Vice Chair Roberto Maldonado (26), Ald. Ed Burke (14), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), Ald. Derrick Curtis (18), Ald. Danny Solis (25), Ald. Carrie Austin (34), Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Ald. Emma Mitts (37), and Ald. Deb Silverstein (50).