CHICAGO (WLS) --In a victory for hundreds of thousands of private sector workers in Chicago, an ordinance is headed to the City Council that requires employers in the city to offer their workers paid sick days.
The Workforce Development Committee approved the earned sick time ordinance with a unanimous voice vote. The entire council is now poised to once again set a new rule for doing business in Chicago.
Earned sick time supporters applauded the committee vote after a hearing during which several workers, including some who have faced firing for calling in sick, made their points.
"We're not begging, we're telling you. We want earned sick time," said Nataki Rhodes, a restaurant worker.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed the task force that recommended the ordinance, which guarantees all workers could accrue at least five days to attend to their own or a family member's illness.
"This is just a basic standard. It's a basic standard of human decency," said 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pewar.
The task force estimated that currently as many as 460,000 Chicago private sector workers are not allowed sick leave. Lakeview's Alderman Tom Tunney, who represents the 44th Ward, is one of the few aldermen who might vote no when the measure comes up before the full council.
"This is not going to bring new jobs to Chicago," Tunney said.
"We are opposed to any local mandate on wage and labor laws," said Tanya Triche, Vice President and General Counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
Triche also complained that under Mayor Emanuel, Chicago small businesses have been hit with a barrage of new taxes, fees and regulations that have stifled their growth.
"For a mayor that says he wants to grow business and has spent a lot of time attracting businesses, he hasn't spent a lot of time trying to make those existing businesses stay in business," Triche said.
But 45th Ward Alderman John Arena says City Hall must do more to uplift Chicago workers.
"Wages are stagnant or dropping, corporate profits are through the roof. It's about time we start narrowing that gap and this is one measure to do that," Arena said.
A Chamber of Commerce spokesman complained that the city, in the past two years, has raised property taxes, increased the minimum wage, banned plastic bags and taxed smokeless tobacco. The full City Council will vote on the sick leave ordinance on Wednesday, June 22.