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Council panel backs Fair Workweek Ordinance

“I feel good about where we are, but it was tough sledding,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Chicago City Hall Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Aldermen rallied around an ordinance Tuesday that would give many lower-paid employees advance notice of work schedules, handing Mayor Lori Lightfoot a victory on an initiative she championed.

The council’s Committee on Workforce Development endorsed the ordinance on a unanimous voice vote after business and labor groups came together on a compromise version drafted with the mayor’s staff. The full council could adopt the ordinance Wednesday.

It would require companies in specific industries to give eligible workers 10 days notice of schedules beginning July 1, 2020, and 14 days notice beginning two years later.

Passage was assured after lobbyists agreed on provisions pushed by business groups: the ordinance applies only to salaried employees earning up to $50,000 a year and hourly employees earning up to $26; the definition of covered employers was tightened; and “safety net” hospitals that mostly care for the poor and the uninsured got extra time to comply.

Lightfoot, who witnessed some of the testimony at the committee hearing, said the final product gave no special interest everything it wanted. She said she aimed for “a fair and transparent process where a lot of people who hadn’t been part of the discussion were brought into the discussion and had a seat at the table.”

The mayor added, “I feel good about where we are, but it was tough sledding.”

The ordinance applies to companies with more than 100 workers, and with at least 50 of them covered under the ordinance. It also limits the industries where the ordinance applies.

Robert Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, said last-minute changes negotiated with the mayor ensured there were no “unintended consequences” and that protections are reserved for lower-wage workers who need them the most. He also said it would cover industries that similar laws around the country do not.

The CFL is an investor in Sun-Times Media.

Jack Lavin, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, voiced his support even though the ordinance would place new demands on businesses. He said it was the ‘most expansive” fair workweek law in the nation.

“We’ve tried to advocate for a more balanced approach, with protections for workers,” he said. Lavin said the final version was much more business-friendly than earlier drafts.

Advocates said requiring notice for work schedules provides justice for people who need to arrange child care or other family duties, and for employees who get sent home abruptly when there’s little for them to do.

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), the committee chairman, said after declaring the ordinance passed, “Hundreds of thousands of workers are going to be protected by our decision today.” Committee members who spoke in favor of the ordinance after clarifying some provisions included Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).

If passed by the council and signed by Lightfoot, the ordinance would take effect July 1, 2020, although safety-net hospitals would get until Jan. 1, 2021, to comply.