Statement on Release of the Working Families Task Force Report

Arise Chicago’s Statement on Release of the Working Families Task Force Report

Abraham at EST presser 2015

Arise Chicago welcomes the release of the long-anticipated report by the City of Chicago’s Working Families Task Force report, and its recommendation for guaranteed paid sick day legislation for Chicago’s entire private sector workforce.


At Arise Chicago we hear daily from dozens of workers in some of the toughest, lowest-paying, and most precarious workplaces across the city. We hear workers express their workplace struggles and needs, as well as their desires; desires to lift up their families. Too often, private workplace policies suppress workers’ opportunities to lift themselves and loved ones out of poverty and to advance in their work life.

There are common-sense solutions within reach. Permitting workers to attend to physical and mental health needs without sacrificing pay or their very job is one such solution. When employers, left to their own discretion, fail to provide the most basic of standards, workers must advocate for policies in the public realm.  

That is why three years ago, Arise Chicago joined forces with other workers’ groups and advocacy organizations to form the Chicago Earned Sick Time Coalition. Together, we introduced a paid sick days ordinance and kicked off a city-wide conversation. In the city’s 2015 election, 82% of Chicagoans supported the idea of mandatory paid sick days.  Arise Chicago’s Executive Director, Rev. C.J. Hawking, was selected to serve on the City’s Working Families Task Force, where she advocated for paid sick days as a righteous cause, an economic necessity, and a sensible policy. Arise Chicago mobilized its worker members to participate in 5 of the 6 neighborhood focus groups on the topic and to share stories with the media about their struggle without paid sick days. And Arise Chicago collected signed support from from prominent faith leaders across a dozen religious traditions.     

Arise Chicago is pleased that the mayor engaged and listened to the working people of Chicago, including Arise Chicago’s own worker members, who are in need of immediate relief. The report represents recommendations, including a framework for paid sick days, based on the different voices represented on the task force.

We are saddened by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Retail Merchants Association’s public opposition to the recommendation. We find it dismaying how out of touch these two interest groups are from the overwhelming majority of Chicagoans.

A paid sick days ordinance would affect almost half of all private sector workers in Chicago. Such an ordinance would mean that workers would no longer need to literally choose between their health and their job. A paid sick days ordinance would also mean that, in many workplaces, such as any related to food production or service, the public’s health would be protected. Such an ordinance would provide a measure of stability and peace of mind from the uncertainty and anxiety currently experienced by Chicagoans from truckers to domestic workers, bus boys to car wash workers. A paid sick days ordinance would allow Chicago to catch up with the 5 states and 22 cities with such a policy, including New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh.

Arise Chicago urges the Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council to swiftly pass an ordinance based on the Report’s recommendations.

Below is an excerpt from the Working Families Task Force Report’s Executive Summary

Paid Sick Leave

The Task Force recommended a framework that would provide workers with paid sick leave while having a nominal impact on employer costs. This proposal would:

  • Allow workers to accrue and use up to 5 earned sick days over the course of 1 year.
  • Workers would earn sick time at a rate of 1 hour earned for every 40 hours worked. This approach ensures that employees earn and accrue sick time at a proportional rate based on hours worked.
  • Accrued sick leave could be used by new employees after an initial 6-month probationary period.
  • Allow employees to roll over up to 2.5 unused sick days to the following year.
  • Exempt employers that offer combined leave benefits such as Paid Time Off (PTO) from these requirements as long as employees could accrue and use up to 5 days of PTO within a calendar year.
  • This framework would not require the pay out of unused sick days by the employer and it would also exempt sick leave benefits that are negotiated as part of a collective bargaining agreement.


Please direct questions about the report, and requests for interviews about a paid sick days ordinance with Arise Chicago, low-wage workers, or religious leaders to Shelly Ruzicka


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