Abortion ruling figures in new pitch for Chicago jobs

A letter from World Business Chicago, signed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other civic leaders, urges Fortune 500 companies to invest here because local laws respect worker diversity and impose fewer limits on abortions.

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Michael Fassnacht, CEO of World Business Chicago

Michael Fassnacht, CEO of World Business Chicago

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

The city’s economic development agency is using the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion rights as a marketing tool.

World Business Chicago, alluding to Illinois’ law that guarantees abortion as a health care right, sent letters Monday to heads of Fortune 500 companies in states where reproductive rights have been lost or may be curtailed. The letters invite the 300 CEOs to move to Chicago for the sake of employees affected by laws banning or criminalizing abortions.

Heavy restrictions or bans on abortions could apply in 25 states now that the high court has overturned Roe vs. Wade, said the letter. It was signed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments, and Michael Fassnacht, CEO of World Business Chicago.

“Residents of those states — including those who work at your company — may suffer as a result of this decision,” the letter said. “Families and individuals can now be punished for private health care decisions. Not to mention, many lives will be upended as people are stripped of [a] 50-year-old right.

“As you weigh the repercussions facing your employees, customers and vendors, we welcome the opportunity to highlight the ways in which Chicago remains a welcoming city for all. Not only has Chicago been the Top Metro for Corporate Relocation and Expansion for 9 consecutive years, according to Site Selection Magazine, we are also home to the second highest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the country.”

Fassnacht said in an interview that because the Supreme Court ruling affects millions of people, corporate leaders weighing moves or expansions “have to take into consideration the values a state or city has.”

He said he has had “ongoing conversations” with CEOs about how they cannot build a great corporate culture if local laws “don’t respect all their employees.” But he would not say directly if he has spoken with the heads of Boeing, Caterpillar or Citadel, companies that in recent weeks have said they are taking their headquarters out of Chicago.

“I would not be surprised if employees have raised concerns” about the moves, Fassnacht said. Caterpillar and Citadel could not immediately be reached for comment. A Boeing executive emphasized the limited nature of its headquarters move, which he said involves the CEO and chief financial officer and not its roughly 400 employees in Chicago.

WBC said it will highlight the letter in a full-page ad running in the Wall Street Journal this week.

Using “In Chicago We Believe,” a slogan from a separate ad campaign promoting the city’s commitment to inclusion, the letter also says, “In Chicago We Believe a welcoming city respects everyone — with no place for hate, intolerance or exclusion. In Chicago We Believe diversity is our strength.”

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