‘Tweaking’ holds up vote on Fair Workweek Ordinance

Panel delays for a day as Mayor Lori Lightfoot negotiates with business and labor.

SHARE ‘Tweaking’ holds up vote on Fair Workweek Ordinance
Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) talks with reporters after a Committee on Workforce Development meeting Monday, July 22, 2019.

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) supports the Fair Workweek Ordinance.

David Roeder/Sun-Times

With business and labor groups haggling over terms, a City Council committee has deferred until Tuesday a vote on an ordinance to require many businesses to give staff advance notice of their work schedules.

Among the issues still in dispute is whether it will cover salaried workers and if there will be a limit on hourly workers getting the protection. Business lobbyists want salaried workers out of the Fair Workweek Ordinance, while the labor side wants all hourly workers and salaried workers earning less than $50,000 a year covered.

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), chairman of the council’s Committee on Workforce Development, announced to a crowded gallery at a hearing Monday that action would be deferred for a day. She said Mayor Lori Lightfoot and aldermen wanted more time to get the measure right.

“I have been in constant communication with the mayor,” Garza told reporters. “She’s had a hands-on approach for this. This is good government. This is the way things should be done.”

“There are a couple articles that are being tweaked, and I didn’t feel comfortable taking testimony on something no one has seen.”

Lightfoot’s office issued a statement: “As we work to pass the most expansive scheduling legislation in the nation, the City of Chicago is taking the time to include the voices of all industries and partners as we near a final proposal. We expect to introduce the revised Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance this week following a robust negotiation process, encompassing new industries not currently covered in Fair Workweek laws elsewhere.

“This landmark legislation will result in plans that will guarantee reliable working conditions for low-wage workers across a number of industries, reasonable accommodation for employers and a path to lift up working families across the city.”

Garza, a vocal proponent of the measure, said the proposal that emerges will have strong protections for workers. A working draft would give employees 10 days notice of their schedules starting April 1, 2020, and then 14 days notice starting two years later.

But the draft exempts employers with fewer than 100 employees, nonprofit employers with fewer than 250 employees and all but the largest restaurant companies or franchise owners.

Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said businesses still need clarity on the definition of an hourly worker. Some want the ordinance to cover only those making less than $25 per hour, but that raises the issue of whether tips are included.

Another issue for businesses is how to handle giving out work on short notice without violating the ordinance.

If cleared by the committee, the measure could go before the full City Council on Wednesday.

Garza told the audience Monday that no one is trying to water down the requirements. “This ordinance can provide stability and security to the worker who gets the shift cut at the last minute; the single mother who has to travel to find child care, the waitress who has to travel an hour to get to work, only to be told to go home because it’s slow,” she said.

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