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Advocates push for stalled paid sick days ordinance

Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th) speaks Tuesday to demand a vote on a stalled ordinance that would require employers in Chicago to allow at least five paid sick days a year. | Jacob Wittich/For the Sun-Times

Alderman and advocates backing an ordinance requiring Chicago employers to provide paid sick days remain optimistic despite a lack of progress since it was introduced in April.

Aldermen Toni Foulkes (16th), Ameya Pawar (47th) and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and advocates from the activist group Arise Chicago gathered at City Hall Tuesday to demand that City Council vote on the ordinance when it meets again in June.

Proponents of the ordinance had expected it to be called in a hearing of the Workforce Development Committee in May, leading to full Council approval, but a committee hearing was never called.

“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. It’s not fair for the working families of the city,” Foulkes said.

The ordinance was introduced in May last year. It didn’t go anywhere, but did lead to a nonbinding ballot referendum in the 2015 election, which found that 82 percent of Chicagoans support paid sick days.

It was reintroduced in April, and has been backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Working Families Task Force. The ordinance proposes that workers could earn up to five sick days in one year, at the rate of one hour earned for every 40 hours worked.

Ramirez-Rosa said the ordinance has been opposed by pro-business groups, but it is necessary for working families of Chicago.

“Sometimes the mechanisms of city council can move too slowly on certain issues. And I think that the deliberative process that the mayor brought forward with the working families working group was good. It was smart. It brought us to this compromised solution that we’re at. Now let’s get moving on this.”