Chicagoans win paid sick leave law

CHICAGO (PAI) – Add Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, to the list of big cities with paid sick leave laws.

That’s because the city council overwhelmingly approved an ordinance providing for five days of paid leave yearly. It passed on June 24. That adds Chicago to paid leave laws in the nation’s first (New York), second (Los Angeles), fifth (Philadelphia) and eighth (San Diego) cities, 18 other cities, four states – California, Minnesota, Connecticut and Oregon – and D.C.

A coalition of workers’ rights and progressive groups pushed the ordinance through the council, over the usual business opposition. The Chicago ordinance takes effect July 1, 2017. Women Employed, an ordinance backer, said it would aid 42 percent of Chicago workers.

“It’s a sober victory because we know that until it takes effect, people are choosing between their jobs and their health,” said Adam Kader, director of the Arise Chicago worker center, which led the fight for the ordinance.

Kader told local media it will protect workers like Noemi Hernandez, a 26-year-old bartender at Navy Pier. Five years ago, Hernandez had to leave her retail shift to take her then 3-year-old daughter to a hospital after the girl swallowed a dime. She didn’t lose her job then, but she did lose her pay. “It’s two losses at once,” Hernandez, who recently completed her associate’s degree, told the media. “You lose the wage and you have to pay a doctor’s bill.”

Cities and states pass paid leave ordinances because the Republican-run Congress has killed a federal paid leave law, without a hearing, for years. Just before the Chicago action, the National Employment Law Project led dozens of organizations-including the Steelworkers, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Teamsters, AFSCME Iowa, AFT New Jersey, the Communications Workers, the AFL-CIO and AFA-CWA – to write lawmakers on June 10 again urging passage of a federal law, the Family Act (S786/HR1439).

That measure “is modeled on successful and effective state paid leave laws and would help working women and men meet their caregiving demands while reducing economic inequality and improving economic opportunities for all,” their letter said. “In America today, basic access to paid family and medical leave depends on winning the ‘boss lottery’ and too many women and men are losing. A mere 13 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers.”

Photo: Women Employed Facebook.



Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.