Business groups involved in state’s ‘quality jobs’ report rip the final product
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce say the published findings don’t reflect a consensus of the 36-member task force.
Leading business groups that took part in a task force about “quality jobs” denounced the panel’s recommendations Tuesday for how government and the private sector could foster them.
The task force report, called “Future of Work in Illinois,” did not reflect a consensus of its 36 members and the group never discussed many of the published recommendations, said a joint statement from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. All were represented on the task force.
“It shouldn’t be a starting point for any potential legislation,” said Alec Laird, vice president of government relations for IRMA and its representative on the task force. “For the process alone, I think they missed a great opportunity.”
Laird said 25 members voted on the final report and only 17 supported it. He said members were given barely more than two hours to read it before the group’s final meeting May 23. “It’s sort of bush league,” he said.
A spokesman for the task force said 18 members approved the report while eight opposed it, abstained or voted present. The remaining members never voted on the end product.
The report was presented Tuesday at a public event that featured a co-chair of the task force, state Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago.
He said the task force — drawn from academia, business, labor and government — incorporated all viewpoints. “I would wholeheartedly say that everybody absolutely had a voice in the process,” he said. Laird’s comments, he said, “could not be more false.”
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce was represented on the task force by Clark Kaericher, senior vice president of government affairs. At the Tuesday event, Kaericher said he voted against the report but praised the collaboration that went into it. “I’m convinced that when we work together, we get outcomes that are far better than if one side had its way,” he said.
Laird said some meetings occurred without proper notice and before many members were named, contrary to the state law that set up the task force. Appointments were made by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and legislative leaders.
The report defined “quality jobs” as providing family-sustaining wages and benefits with safe working conditions, called on the state to realign incentives to encourage them and asked companies to commit to the concept. The report stopped short of urging legislative mandates, leaving that issue to political debates.
Laird said businesses understand the value of improving pay and benefits and support policies such as family leave, but the report’s language goes too far. “All businesses want to provide a quality job, but one uniform standard will not work for each sector,” he said.
The business groups said in their joint release that two registered lobbyists handled much of the task force’s affairs, calling that a conflict of interest. They had complained about the procedures to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which provided administrative support for the study.
DECO’s acting director, Sylvia Garcia, sent to the business groups a response saying outside individuals helping the task force were named by its co-chairs and had no contractual ties to her agency. A task force spokesman provided a copy of Garcia’s response.
The Chicago Community Trust and the Joyce Foundation funded the task force’s work.