Mayor Lori Lightfoot was urged Friday to push back the July 1 effective date for a minimum wage hike and predictable scheduling regulations to give businesses fighting for survival a chance to “get back on their feet.”
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jack Lavin said the policy debate on both issues is over.
It’s not a matter of if the minimum wage will be raised to $14 an hour — and $15 an hour a year after that. It’s no longer a question of whether employees will get two weeks’ notice of their schedules or compensation for last-minute changes. It’s when those mandates will take place.
“We have hotels that are at 5% capacity. We have restaurants that are doing curbside and delivery and just now opening up outdoors. They don’t have corporate staffs looking at these issues right now. And they don’t have time. They’re worried about the resources they need if they’re recovering from a protest or the resources they need to deal with the health pandemic — whether it’s more PPE they have to pay for and, obviously, less customers,” Lavin told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“We need to do everything we can from a regulatory standpoint to help them save money. Cash flow they can save now helps them hire people. The predictability of scheduling — they just aren’t gonna know until they get back up and running. Let’s give relief ... small businesses need to get their doors open, find out what their new business model is, what the costs are, what the customers and clients are gonna be.”
Last month, the City Council agreed to postpone at least part of the so-called “fair workweek” ordinance. But the six-month delay only applied to the “private cause of action” section that allows aggrieved workers whose schedules are changed without adequate notice or compensation to file their own lawsuits against their employers.
That’s simply not enough, Lavin said.
“We have property taxes changing. The Cook County assessor is shifting the burden more to commercial businesses. Scheduling and minimum wage, the increased costs of COVID. All of these things add up to a cumulative factor,” he said.
“If we raise the cost of doing business too much or put too many regulations out there, some of these businesses that shut down during COVID are just not gonna open up again.”
The mayor’s office responded with a statement later Friday reaffirming Lightfoot’s commitment to both the minimum wage increase and the fair workweek ordinance, saying “the middle of an economic meltdown of historic proportions” is no time “to retreat from our commitment to workers. Those who continue to have jobs need our support.”
Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter, who fought long and hard for both the minimum wage and predictable scheduling ordinances, called the request “tone deaf to what workers go through.”
“How hard is it for an employer to fall within the guidelines of being able to schedule people? ... At some point, you reopen, and you just start making schedules. The scheduling ordinance was not meant to be oppressive to business. [But it provides] fairness to people who are out there working. And now working in a more challenged environment because of COVID-19,” Reiter said.
Chicago Federation of Labor has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.
As for the minimum wage, Reiter said, “We’re talking about folks who make the least in our economy who deserve more. Should we continue to put that off? How much of a real burden is that gonna be on businesses relative to everything else we’re dealing with in society?”
The death of George Floyd at the hands of now-former Minneapolis police officers — and the anger, rioting and protests it continues to trigger — has businesses tripping over themselves to get on the right side of the issue.
On Friday, Lavin talked about the “emotional roller coaster” Chicago businesses have endured and about the need for them to have “courageous discussions about race” that have been put off for far too long.
“Our large businesses are not gonna perform well without strong small businesses. They’re part of our supply chain. So, our corporate community needs to take a look at how we’re supporting our small businesses. Particularly how we’re helping ... minority-owned businesses. We also need to take a look at how are we hiring and bringing new people into companies. Are we pursuing diverse pipelines for hiring?” Lavin said.
“We need to ... have those courageous discussions about race ... to make sure the full fabric of our community is strong. ... Let’s take a pledge to buy from our supply chain and have them be Chicagoland companies. ... This pandemic, these protests are gonna change how we operate as a business community. How we bring talent in. We need to be on the cutting edge of that.”
Jewel-Osco did its parts, contributing $1 million to the $10 million fund created by the city and the Chicago Community Trust to help small businesses ravaged by the looting and vandalism rebuild.
In addition, Jewel-Osco announced a so-called “pin-pad campaign” at all 37 of its Chicago stores. At checkout, customers will be asked whether they wish to donate $1, $3 or $5 to the fund to help inner-city businesses rebuild.
City Hall also announced a new program that will allow the owners and managers of Chicago businesses to voluntarily receive “targeted emergency alerts” of impending trouble in their neighborhoods.
Businesses can opt in by texting “CHIBIZ” to 67283 or by going to www.chicago.gov/chibizalerts. They will be asked to provide “a few business-specific details” so the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications will know what information to include in the alerts.