After a two-and-a-half-year battle that spanned two administrations and pitted business against labor, Chicago’s low-wage workers finally have the advance scheduling notice they need to arrange for child care and give predictability to their paychecks.
And Mayor Lori Lightfoot has a hard-earned political victory to add to her list of 100-day accomplishments.
The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to give Chicago what proponents call the strongest work scheduling ordinance of any large U.S. city.
The groundbreaking nature of the ordinance — and the key role Lightfoot played in prodding business and labor to give a little — was duly noted before the final vote.
“Mayor Lightfoot, without your leadership on this, this would have never, ever transpired,” said Workforce Development Committee Chairman Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), who carried the ball over the political goal line and got a standing ovation from her colleagues.
“I can’t give you a bottle of champagne, but I’m going to give you a bottle of South Side hot sauce,” Garza told Lightfoot, holding up a bottle of the stuff.
That prompted Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) to shout, “As long as it’s [worth] under $50.”
Addressing aldermen from the rostrum, Lightfoot predicted the ordinance would be “truly transformative” to working parents. She recalled, yet again, the struggles her own mother had arranging child care and making ends meet as employers constantly changed her work schedule.
Lightfoot acknowledged the ordinance was a “big tough lift” for business, labor and aldermen and said the result of that hard work is the “most expansive” scheduling ordinance in the nation.
She acknowledged the city must use data analytics to build an “infrastructure” to monitor the effect of the ordinance on the impacted industries.
They include: building services; health care; hotels; manufacturing; restaurants with at least 30 locations and 250 employees; nonprofits with more than 250 employees; retail and warehouse services.
When Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) warned about the impact on “safety-net hospitals” and his fear some might close, Lightfoot said their primary concern is Medicaid reimbursements. She promised to work with those hospitals to help solve that problem.
After the Council meeting, Lightfoot joined proponents of the scheduling ordinance for a triumphant news conference with a party atmosphere.
She was hailed as a hero for accomplishing what her predecessor Rahm Emanuel couldn’t — or refused to use his once-formidable political capital to achieve.
“This is a process that started two-and-a-half years ago. In this two-and-a-half months of this administration, we have worked very hard to bring as many voices as possible to the table so we could get this right,” the mayor said.
“It’s not a perfect ordinance. We haven’t made everybody happy. But I think that we’ve struck the right balance. ... The fair work week ordinance passed today touches thousands of Chicago’s working families providing the certainty that is vital — not only to their financial stability, but also their capacity to live their lives as parents and caretakers.”
LeCrisha Pearson is an eight-year veteran certified nursing assistant at Mount Sinai Hospital. She described herself as “one of the thousands” of hospital workers “whose life has been changed for the better” because Chicago chose to do what no other city has done. That is, include hospitals in its predictable scheduling ordinance.
“I earn just $13.53-an-hour. And that’s not nearly enough for the demands and skill set at my job. I have a hard time making ends meet for me and my son at this wage. And that’s when I have a full paycheck. But, the trouble has been I have not been getting my full paycheck,” Pearson said.
“I’ve been sent home from a regularly-scheduled work shift with no notice. You have to either lose a third or more of your pay weekly or use your paid time up. [With] today’s ordinance, I’ll soon be able to get paid for my full schedule and so will half of the hourly hospital workers like me. It’s a huge victory.”
Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter applauded the City Council for, as he put it, “taking, yet another step to put this city on the side of working people.”
“Health care, manufacturing and the warehouse industry have never been included in a predictive scheduling law—until now,” Reiter said.
The Chicago Federation of Labor has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.
“Chicago is the hometown of the American labor movement,” Reiter continued. “And I am proud to see this city standing tall as a leader when it comes to protecting its workers. I look forward to continuing to make sure Chicago is the most pro-worker city in the country. And with a team like the one you see here with us today, I’m certain we’ll make that a reality.”