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Could Chicago Become Midwestern Leader on Paid Sick Leave?

Labor advocates say Chicago could become a leader on the issue of paid sick leave in the Midwest, if the city council adopts new rules allowing workers to earn five days off per year. (Arise Chicago)
Labor advocates say Chicago could become a leader on the issue of paid sick leave in the Midwest, if the city council adopts new rules allowing workers to earn five days off per year. (Arise Chicago)
June 16, 2016

CHICAGO - Worker's rights advocates say Chicago is poised to become a Midwestern leader on paid sick leave for employees. A City Council committee today is considering a move to allow Chicago workers the right to earn up to five paid sick days per year. Advocates say that would help about 460,000 workers, who currently could be fired for missing work because of illness or for having to take care of a child or elderly family member.

Adam Kader, worker center director, with Arise Chicago said, last year more than 80 percent of city voters supported the idea on a ballot measure.

"This would be instant relief for many working families that would no longer have to choose between taking care of themselves, taking care of their loved one's health, and making sure that they are making money, that they are able to keep their jobs," he said.

But several business groups, including the Illinois Retail Merchants Association are opposing the idea, saying it would put another financial burden on small-business owners.

Kader said if Chicago lawmakers do approve the idea, a similar statewide paid sick-leave policy might not be far behind.

"In the past there have been attempts at the state level and I don't think the conditions were right for paid sick days to pass at the state level," he added. "My hope certainly is that after Chicago passes it, it will kind of revive interest."

Today's council committee meeting follows a statement from the Chicago-based American Medical Association, which this week adopted new policies "recognizing the public health benefits of paid sick leave." At least five states have updated their paid sick-leave policies in addition to major cities such as New York and Seattle.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL