Chicago employees struggling to achieve a work-life balance will have to wait a little longer to have the playing field tilted in their favor.
The City Council was poised Tuesday to deliver one of the most generous paid leave policies in the nation, over strenuous objections from business, retail and restaurant owners and the trade groups that represent them.
But pro-business Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) used a parliamentary maneuver to defer consideration of the matter for at least one meeting.
Hopkins and Reilly have both sided with business leaders, who claim marathon negotiations between business and labor have not produced nearly enough changes to ease the burden on a business community hit with an avalanche of costly mandates.
Mayor Brandon Johnson and his allies originally had demanded Chicago businesses provide 15 days off each year. They ultimately settled for 10 days — five sick days and five vacation days.
Companies with 100 or more workers would be required to pay out up to seven days of unused time when employees leave their jobs.
There would be a two-year phase-in for companies with 51 to 100 employees to pay departing workers for unused time. Companies with 50 or fewer employees would be excused from post-employment payouts.
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jack Lavin has called the compromise ordinance “the most expensive, expansive and complicated paid leave” in the nation.
“We had one member say they would have to escrow three, four, five months of profit for the potential payout requirements,” Lavin said last week.
“We have a real estate transfer tax being considered, tipped credit, property tax bills just came out. Continued cost of regulations. And then, the impact of inflation and supply and labor challenges. All of these things we’re piling onto our small businesses. And now this.”
Marathon negotiations between business and labor should have produced “more meaningful change,” Lavin said.
“The payout is seven days. That’s still high. It’s a partial exemption for small businesses. They’re only exempt from the payout. They’re not exempt from everything else in the ordinance. They can still get sued,” Lavin said.
Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said there has been “no meaningful movement that makes it workable in any way for any business, large or small.”
“We’ve already solved this at the state level. Everybody’s got five days. What is so different about Chicago that it needs its own” requirements? Karr said. That five-day statewide paid leave mandate takes effect Jan. 1.
Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Workforce Development, noted many of the local chambers of commerce are on board with the increase. So is organized labor and the Black Caucus that pushed for a series of concessions to ease the burden on small business.
“We have, among City Council colleagues, come together with labor, business and community to agree on a historic paid time off ordinance. Nobody is absolutely happy with this negation, and that makes it a good one,” Rodriguez said.
“We can’t afford not to do this. Working people deserve days off. Paid time off is good for both workers and business,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of businesses are on board because they see we’ve come to compromise. This is democracy. Mayor Johnson absolutely was crucial in this whole process.”