This week Chicago’s city council approved a paid sick leave ordinance, ensuring that nearly every Windy City worker will have the right to earn up to five days of paid sick leave. The city joins over two dozen others in the U.S., including New York and Los Angeles, in requiring employees to provide that protection. When the legislation goes into effect next year, it will extend the right to more than 460,000 workers. Construction workers were excluded, reports the Chicago Tribune, because they tend to work for more than one employer over the course of a year.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel characterized the ordinance as “earned sick leave,” because employees will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours labored. “You have to earn it, you don’t just get it, by the amount of hours you put in,” he said.
Even though numerous studies have shown that paid sick leave has a minimal negative impact on employer expenses and a significant positive impact on employee productivity and morale, Chicago’s business community opposed the ordinance. “It’s unfortunate the City Council refuses to consider the overall effects of the litany of new rules, regulations and costs they place on employers,” said Chicagoland Chamber President Theresa Mintle in a statement. “Businesses don’t operate in silos, and this mandated paid sick leave is another cost neighborhood businesses will have to absorb at a time when they can least afford it.”
Worker’s rights organizations praised the measure, however. With 34 cities, counties and states now guaranteeing paid sick leave, “the momentum around this common sense policy becomes even more undeniable,” wrote Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, in a statement. But, she continued:
“[It] is also a reminder of the urgent need for a national paid sick days standard. The patchwork of state and local paid sick days laws that our country is putting in place makes it easier for some people to care for their families while holding jobs, but it also puts us at risk of creating even larger inequalities in access to paid sick days and other family friendly policies. It is past time for Congress to take action so that no worker or family is left behind.”
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.