For Immediate Release: October 16, 2023:
Labor Advocates Applaud Mayor’s Budget Recommendations
Proposal includes increased funding for the Office of Labor Standards
Shelly Ruzicka, Arise Chicago
CHICAGO--This week, Mayor Brandon Johnson released his budget recommendations. Among them includes increased funding for the Office of Labor Standards (OLS), the agency that labor advocates created in 2018 in order to enforce the City’s growing list of worker protections.
As stated in the Mayor’s press release, “it adds staff and resources within the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection’s Office of Labor Standards to ensure it has the resources it needs to defend and serve all workers.”
The Mayor recommends that the OLS budget would increase from $825,970 to $1,451,981. That increase would, in part, create the following new positions: 2 chief investigators, 1 associate attorney, and 2 forensic data analysts.
Since passing the 2018 ordinance that created the OLS, advocates have been calling for adequate funding and staffing. Currently, OLS enforces 16 ordinances, including major statutes like minimum wage, paid sick days, and wage theft protections. The ordinances cover hundreds of thousands of workers, with a team of merely ten staff members.
According to the OLS’s most recent annual report, the office anticipates the caseload to increase and identifies the need for additional personnel. This is especially true in light of the recent passage of the One Fair Wage ordinance, which the OLS is charged with enforcing. Beginning July 1st, 2024, the City’s large tipped wage-earning workforce will have the right to file complaints with OLS. Labor advocates are also working to expand Chicago’s Paid Sick Leave ordinance by the end of the year, which would also fall under the jurisdiction of OLS.
“Mayor Johnson has reiterated his commitment to investing in people. Investment in the OLS does just that--it invests in workers by giving them assurance that the City will protect their rights. This is a win for all workers, but especially for low-paid workers,” says Adam Kader, Public Policy Director for Arise Chicago.
According to a recent study by Rutgers University Workplace Justice Lab, an estimated 41% of low-paid workers in Chicago have suffered a minimum wage violation between 2005-2022, costing individual workers in Chicago nearly $4,000 per year on average. Employment violations disproportionately harm Black, Latiné, and Asian workers; immigrants; women; and youth.
“Good labor policy is only as good as the City’s ability to enforce it.” says Ugo Okere, Policy Director for Raise the Floor Alliance. “With this budget, the Johnson administration has empowered the Office of Labor Standards to carry out the Mayor’s commitment to protecting and centering Black, Latiné, Asian, youth workers, and more.”
Arise Chicago board member Alfredo Sanchez similarly applauds Ald. Rodriguez and Mayor Johnson for investing in working people, “I have experienced workplace problems in the past. Until I found Arise Chicago, I thought I had to put up with it or try and resolve it on my own. But thanks to our creation of the Office of Labor Standards, and now, to Mayor Johnson’s further investment in it, we know the City is looking out for us.”
Sanchez continues, “It is so important for working people like me to know the City has our back if our employers don’t follow the law. This should also help keep more employers compliant with all the city’s worker protections.”
“The protections enforced by the Office of Labor Standards are particularly critical for women— especially Black and Latinx/a women—who are disproportionately employed in low-paid occupations, and vulnerable to violations,” said Sharmili Majmudar, Executive Vice President of Policy, Programs, and Research for Women Employed.” We commend Mayor Johnson’s and Ald. Rodriguez’s leadership in recognizing this investment in enforcement as critical to healthy, dignified workplaces in Chicago.”
“The Office of Labor Standards has been critical to ensuring that workers have a vehicle to hold their employers accountable. Over the last few years, the Chicago Federation of Labor has worked with OLS and our affiliated unions to recover over $500,000 in wages owed to workers.” said Andrea Kluger, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Chicago Federation of Labor. “We are thrilled that the mayor’s budget increases the city’s capacity to enforce labor laws and deliver for working people.”