Chicago’s Fair Workweek ordinance. “Eight hours’ labor, eight hours’ recreation, eight hours’ rest.”

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Ann Lightfoot, Lori Lightfoot’s 90-year-old mother.

Years ago when I worked at South Works, the collection of steel mills that once sat on the Lake in the 10th Ward, it was a shift work job. That meant every week I could be working either the day shift, the night shift or the overnight shift. It was not uncommon for me to get off of work and have to come in eight hours later.

Let me tell you. That is rough, even on a young man.

Which I was.

I reminded 10th Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza about those days as we discussed the Fair Workweek ordinance that her city council committee is holding hearings on right now.

Garza’s dad was east side steelworker and union reform leader, Eddie Sadlowski.

She remembered.

“You should hear the testimony we have received before our committee,” Garza told me.

“Hospital workers being told as they were about to head out the door for work not to come in. These hospitals budget for their worker costs at the start of the year. When they tell someone not to come in without warning, it is pure gravy for them, while the worker is screwed.”

Chicago’s 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins says that the City Council “has veered to the left, [but] you’re going to see it ultimately govern from the middle.”

Hopkins says an example of governing from the left is fair workweek.

Hopkins is the alderman from Lincoln Yards. Killing the Fair Workweek ordinance is what he calls governing from the middle.

But siding with the corporations is not the middle. It’s the wrong side.

The corporations want to kill the ordinance, or at least exclude large categories of workers, like those who work in hospitals, from the protection of the new law.

The ordinance as presently written would require many Chicago employers to publish employees’ schedules and limit their ability to change employees’ schedules or impose mandatory overtime.

The proposed ordinance also includes a “right to rest” provision that allows employees to decline hours that occur within 10 hours of a prior shift. Additionally, unless the employee consents to work those hours in writing, the employer must pay the employee one-and-a-half times their regular rate for any hours worked less than 10 hours following the end of their previous shift.

If enacted in its current form, the ordinance would take effect on April 1, 2020. The City Council could vote on the ordinance as early as June 12.

The proposed ordinance would apply to employers in the following industries: day and temporary labor service agencies, hotels, restaurants, building services, healthcare facilities or programs, manufacturers, airports, warehouses, retail, and child care.

McDonald’s and other fast food employers.

It is a huge deal for low pay workers. Immigrant and undocumented workers. Women workers.

Naturally the Chamber of Commerce hates it.

The Work Your Way coalition is the creation of Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Health & Hospital Association, Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, Illinois Restaurant Association and Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

That is Hopkin’s middle.

A Chicagoan who doesn’t hate it is Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot has attended the hearings. Something Chicago mayors never do. She supports the ordinance.

Her mother was a healthcare worker who faced exactly the kind of treatment the Fair Workweek ordinance will restrict.

So the Mayor remembers too.

“There are over 400,000 workers in Illinois who face this,” Garza said. Our ordinance, among the strongest in the nation, will only protect Chicago workers.

“Will it pass?” I asked Garza.

“There will be some tweaking, but it will pass,” she promised.




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