Put the brakes on labor ordinance that would divert resources from nonprofits

The proposal would treat nonprofits that provide life-saving programs the same as multibillion-dollar, for-profit companies involved in gaming and cannabis sales.

SHARE Put the brakes on labor ordinance that would divert resources from nonprofits
Chicago’s City Hall, where alderpersons will decide whether to enact an ordinance human service nonprofits say will hurt their missions.

City Hall, where council members will decide on an ordinance human service nonprofits say will undermine their missions.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The so-called “Human Services Workforce Advancement Ordinance” now being considered by the City Council does nothing to advance human services or the work force that we are honored to participate in and serve in our mission for the betterment of Chicago.

The proposed ordinance, which up until recently sat in a committee for three years, requires nonprofits to enter into an unfunded “labor peace” or collective bargaining agreement with a union, whether or not our employees have asked for that representation.

Many human services nonprofits aren’t even aware that the ordinance is on a fast track and don’t know how it will adversely affect their organizations.

Contrary to the ordinance’s title, it does nothing to support or invest in human services. It is simply a misguided, expensive mandate that diverts funding away from essential, life-saving programs and treats nonprofits the same as multibillion-dollar, shareholder-paying, for-profit companies involved in gaming and cannabis sales.

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This ordinance would also put a costly gag order on service providers. In fact, if the interests backing this ordinance had engaged in actual conversations with human service providers and our front-line workers, they would know that increasing direct support for people devastated by poverty, violence and injustice, and heightened investment in our work force, are their top priority.

To be clear, at the Chicago Alliance for Collaborative Effort (CACE), a coalition of 44 of the city’s largest human service providers, we support our employees’ right, if they choose, to organize into a union. The recently passed “Workers’ Rights Amendment” enshrines and protects this right in the Illinois Constitution.

But here’s what we don’t support.

We don’t support last-second, politically motivated efforts that claim to advance human services without dedicating a single dollar toward children, adults and families suffering from the trauma caused by chronic mental and physical illness, continued crime and violence, and pervasive housing insecurity.

We don’t support ordinances that refuse to allocate definitive funding for salaries; benefits; education and training; and professional development so that people doing this very important work earn a decent, meaningful wage and have the quality of life they deserve.

Collectively, we impact hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans, the vast majority from underserved and traditionally marginalized communities. Often our employees come from the same communities we serve. Their talents and tireless efforts involving early childhood education, affordable housing, violence prevention and mental health deserve a consequential, equity-informed investment from city contracts.

To that end, we respectfully request an ordinance that recognizes the decades-long, structural disinvestment in human services and provides a multiyear, reliable and sustainable support of the amazing human beings on the front lines of life-saving work.

The potential impact of the proposed ordinance needs to be studied in extreme detail. Deliberation cannot be rushed, and any action toward its passage should be slowed down.

We suggest the ordinance be amended instead to provide nonprofit, human service providers — our teammates in mission — and the people we impact an ironclad commitment from the City Council of consistent, annual and predictable funding increases to account for the rising cost of inflation and the positive difference we make in our city.

Anything less would be short-sighted, unjust and tone-deaf to the real challenges facing our sector.

Dara Munson is chair of CACE (Chicago Alliance for Collaborative Effort) and president and CEO of Family Focus.

Dan Kotowski is co-chair, public policy committee of CACE and president & CEO of Kids Above All.

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The views and opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chicago Sun-Times or any of its affiliates.

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