Chicago Attempts to Legislate Wages and Benefits in Private Companies


CAN ANYONE TELL ME WHY WE AS A CITY TRY TO FORCE CHANGES IN WORK WAGES AND BENEFITS IN PRIVATE COMPANIES AS THE CITY OF CHICAGO SCREWS THEIR CURRENT EMPLOYEES AND RETIREES IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE….JUST AS THE DEDICATION AND MONIES SPENT ON ILLEGALS INSTEAD OF OUR OWN PEOPLE….WE HAVE THE POOR, THE HOMELESS, OUR VETERANS, PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, CITY RETIREES WITH NO HEALTH INSURANCE THAT ARE SUFFERING AND BEING DEPRIVED OF A DECENT RETIREMENT….BUT YET EVERYTHING AND EVERYBODY COMES BEFORE THE ABOVE MENTIONED….ALL THIS WILL NOT BE OVERLOOKED AT ELECTION TIME….

A bill requiring large Chicago employers to give workers at least two weeks advance notice of their schedules and compensate them for last-minute changes was unanimously approved by the city’s workforce development committee Tuesday after several business groups withdrew their opposition.

The final version of the proposed “fair workweek” ordinance limits the protections to just those workers earning less than $26 an hour.

In development for more than two years, the final bill reflected a compromise between representatives from labor and business, who have been working with the city on what kinds of employers and employees would be covered by the scheduling rules.

If passed by the full City Council on Wednesday, Chicago would be the only city in the country to include healthcare employers in predictable scheduling legislation. The potential impact on hospitals and other health care facilities, which have said they need flexibility to make abrupt changes in staffing levels as the need arises, was among the bigger industry concerns.

But David Gross, senior vice president of government relations at the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, said during testimony Tuesday that the group was withdrawing its opposition, thanks to efforts to find middle ground. In addition to the wage threshold, which exempts most clinical staff like nurses and technicians, the final bill includes exceptions for healthcare employers in the event of an unexpected increase in demand due to severe weather, violence, large public events or other events beyond their control.

Gross and others praised efforts by the city and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration to balance the interests of both sides.

“It’s always a good ordinance when everyone walks out unhappy,” said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th.

Lightfoot, who has expressed support for giving workers scheduling predictability, was present in the chambers during part of Tuesday’s committee hearing.

The proposed ordinance aims to add Chicago to the growing list of cities imposing regulations that protect employees against unpredictable work hours that make it difficult for them to plan for child care, go to school, work a second job or have confidence that their paychecks will cover their bills. Initial versions were staunchly opposed by a coalition of major business interest groups that warned that it would reduce flexibility valued by both employers and workers, but those stances softened as lawmakers approached a vote on the compromise legislation.

The Chicago Federation of Labor celebrated the advancement of the bill as a win for hundreds of thousands of workers.

“It’s been a pretty uneven process until the mayor got involved,” labor group president Bob Reiter told reporters outside City Hall chambers Tuesday. “I don’t feel like we really got into a good rhythm here until recently and I believe we got to a good place.”

While the final version of the bill limits the scheduling protections to hourly employees earning less than $26 an hour, the bill had already exempted salaried employees earning more than $50,000.

Labor groups representing hospital workers had been opposed to the hourly pay threshold because it would exclude many nurses and technicians who earn more than that and often find themselves called on or off of shifts at the last minute.

“Regardless of what that workers makes, when they are sent home without pay,” that affects their communities, said Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare, a division of Service Employees International Union.

Doretta Howse, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Mt. Sinai Hospital, said she gets paid $2 an hour to stay by the phone for four hours in case she is needed, and she is notified of a canceled shift two hours before it is scheduled to start.

“It stresses us out,” said Howse, 66, of North Lawndale, who won’t be covered by the bill because her wage is too high. “It’s a financial burden is what it is.”

The addition of the $26 hourly wage threshold was one of the main reasons Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, dropped his group’s opposition, as that would for the most part exempt banquet servers who are often called upon to work shifts with little notice. Still, he said, there are some concerns about implementation.

“Between the wage piece and ability for employer and employee to voluntarily agree to shift changes, those were two of the several provisions that ultimately convinced us to remove our opposition,” Jacobson said. “We think this is a good middle ground.”

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Retail Merchants Association also removed their opposition and are neutral on the bill.

Chicago’s fair workweek ordinance aims to be the broadest in the country. It would cover employees working in building services, healthcare, hotels, manufacturing, restaurants, retail and warehouses services. It would also include temporary workers in those industries.

The law would apply only to employers with 100 or more employees, to nonprofits with more than 250 employees, to restaurants with at least 30 locations and 250 employees globally, and to franchisees with four or more locations. That means company-owned McDonalds restaurants would have to comply, but a McDonald’s franchisee with one or two restaurants would not. The Lettuce Entertain You chain of restaurants would have to comply, but Boka Group, which has fewer than 30 restaurants, would not.

There are exemptions for employees who work at ticketed events. Workplaces with collective bargaining agreements would be exempt as long as they explicitly waive the ordinance in their contracts.

City employees also are not covered. Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th, questioned whether the city was setting the wrong example by not including itself in the law.

“We’re asking a lot of our business community and we’ve seen a lot of that back and forth over the past several weeks” Lopez said. “And I ask this because if we wanted to show our commitment to this, then we should also be showing that we are also practicing what we preach as a city.”

If it’s approved, employers would have to give at least 10 days advance notice of workers’ schedules starting July 1, 2020, and that would grow to a minimum of 14 days two years later. If an employer changes a worker’s schedule less than two weeks before the shift, it would have to give the worker an hour of “predictability pay” at their regular wage rate. If an employer cancels or reduces hours within 24 hours of the start of a previously scheduled shift, it would have to pay the worker half of what would they have made had they worked.

The proposed ordinance does not prevent workers from trading shifts or requesting changes to their schedule. Employers can also change an employee’s hours without penalty when it is mutually agreed upon in writing.

The ordinance includes a “right to rest” provision that gives employees the right to decline work hours that start less than 10 hours after the end of a shift. If an employer doesn’t get written consent from workers willing to work such shifts, it has to pay them time and a quarter.

Safety-net hospitals, which are those that see a large share of Medicaid and Medicare patients, have been given an extra six months to comply. Still, representatives of several safety net hospitals worry about the impact on their already cash-strapped operations.

Diahann Sinclair, vice president of organizational and community development at St. Bernard Hospital in Englewood, where more than 80% of patients are on Medicaid or Medicare, said she doesn’t have a large workforce, so if she had a sudden surge in women going into labor, she would have to pay extra to ask some workers to stay for another shift or come in at the last minute.

“We start out struggling to cover the cost of care, and when you start to add on some of these penalties” it becomes burdensome, she said.

She wants the city to consider exempting safety-net hospitals and to investigate the impact on operations before they have to begin compliance.

The ordinance requires the commissioner of the department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to study the effectiveness and economic impact of the law and submit a report to the City Council by the end of September 2021. The law will be enforced by the department’s new Office of Labor Standards, which is still being set up.

“I think this is going to be a real test case for our country of how hospitals are adapting,” said Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, who had been opposed to the ordinance since the beginning.

Still, Tunney acknowledged that “we’ve seen a lot of evidence where there has been abuse and for people that do carry two jobs or more there is definitely a need for predictability.”

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About royfmc

BS in Environmental Engineering from Northwestern University's McCormick College of Engineering MBA from DePaul University's Kellstadt's College of Business JD from DePaul University's College of Law
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