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Paid Sick Leave Benefits Children’s Health

This month, the Illinois Senate has the opportunity to pass legislation to protect children’s health by providing Illinois workers with paid sick days.

The Healthy Workplace Act (HB 2771) would allow an employee to accrue and use up to five paid sick days per year. Employees may use their paid sick days to care for themselves or a family member. It is an important measure when it comes to children’s health.

Receiving care from their parents is important for children’s mental as well as physical health. Parents have been shown to play important roles in the care of children with chronic and acute conditions such as epilepsy, asthma and diabetes.

Many studies have also shown that a parent’s presence helps with their children’s recovery. When parents are involved in children’s care, children recover more rapidly from outpatient procedures and the duration of hospital stays is reduced by 31%. When parental involvement in the care of sick children is increased, children’s anxiety decreases. On the other hand, separating young children from their parents when they are sick has been shown to have detrimental effects.

While parental involvement is key to the health of children, many parents are forced to decide whether to leave a sick child home alone, send a sick child to school, or stay home with their child and risk losing pay or getting fired because they have no access to paid sick leave. In one study, 58% of working parents continued to go to work when their children were sick. Of the parents who were able to stay home with their children when they were sick, more than half reported that the reason they could stay at home was that they received some type of paid leave. In a separate study conducted in Chicago and Los Angeles, 41% of parents with children with special needs stated that at least once in the past year they went to work even though they felt they should have taken time off to take care of their sick child.

Paid sick leave is important for all working parents but is essential for low-income working mothers, who are primarily responsible for their children’s health. More than half of low-income mothers must take time off when their children are sick compared to a third of higher income mothers. While 71% of higher income mothers have paid sick leave, only 31% of low-income mothers have the same type of support. Among the mothers who do not have other child care options and must miss work when their children are sick, 60% are not paid for that time off.

paid sick leave


Lack of paid sick leave compromises the health of all Illinois children. Parents without paid sick days are more than twice as likely as parents with paid sick days to send a sick child to school or day care putting at risk the health of their children and that of other children. On the other hand, parents who have paid sick or vacation leave are more than five times as likely to care for their sick children compared to those without leave shortening the time children are sick and protecting the health of other children.

Helping to ensure parents have the time and the financial resources to take care of their children, paid sick leave safeguards the health of children in Illinois.

Written by Militza M. Pagán
Consultant to Voices for Illinois Children

Paid Sick Leave in Illinois

The Illinois House has passed legislation (HB 2771) that would provide paid sick leave to Illinois workers who currently have no such right.

While Cook County and the City of Chicago have approved ordinances on paid sick leave that become effective July 1, 2017, there are still 1.5 million Illinois workers without the right to paid sick days.

The  Healthy Workplace Act would allow an employee to accrue and use up to five paid sick days per year.

Momentum to provide more workers paid sick leave has been building throughout Illinois and the nation. The City of Chicago and Cook County approved their measures in 2016. That same year, Arizona, Vermont and Washington-passed laws ensuring access to paid sick leave to all workers in their states.  Paid sick leave is also the law in four other states (Connecticut, California, Massachusetts and Oregon).

Jurisdictions with Paid Sick Days[1]
State and District Effective Date of Statutes
Connecticut 2012
Washington DC 2014
California 2015
Massachusetts 2015
Oregon 2016
Vermont 2017
Arizona 2017
Washington 2018
County Effective Date of Statutes
Montgomery County, MD 2016
Cook County, IL 2017
City Effective Date of Statutes
San Francisco, CA 2007
Seattle, WA 2012
New York, NY 2014
Jersey City, NJ 2014
Newark, NJ 2014
Irvington, NJ 2015
Passaic, NJ 2015
East Orange, NJ 2015
Paterson, NJ 2015
Trenton, NJ 2015
Montclair, NJ 2015
Bloomfield, NJ 2015
Oakland, CA 2015
Philadelphia, PA 2015
Emeryville, CA 2015
Pittsburgh, PA 2015
Elizabeth, NJ 2016
Plainfield, NJ 2016
San Diego, CA 2016
Tacoma, WA 2016
New Brunswick, N.J 2016
Los Angeles, CA 2016
Morristown, NJ 2017
Berkeley, CA 2017
Spokane, WA 2017
Santa Monica, CA 2017
Minneapolis, MN 2017
St. Paul, MN 2017
Chicago, IL 2017

What is paid sick leave?

Paid sick leave allows workers to take time off to recover from illness, attend a doctor’s appointment, take care of a sick loved one, or stay home to take care of children when school is canceled without a loss in pay. Workers accrue paid sick days based on the number of hours they work. The more hours an employee works, the more hours they accrue.

What are the benefits of paid sick leave?

Both employers and workers benefit from earned sick leave by reducing turnover, increasing productivity, saving on healthcare costs, reducing the spread of disease, and providing more economic security for workers.

Paid sick leave is good for children. Parents without paid sick days are more than twice as likely as parents with paid sick days to send a sick child to school or day care.

Paid sick leave provides job and financial security for minority and low-wage workers, whom are most often in jobs that lack sick leave benefits and can least afford to forego a paycheck if they become ill or must care for a family member. In Illinois, roughly 1.6 million workers are in low-wage jobs making $12 or less per hour. While only 14.7% of the Illinois population is African-American and 16.9% of the Illinois population is Latino, 33.6% of African Americans and 44.3% of Latinos in Illinois earn $12/hour or less. These lower income workers are less likely to have access to paid sick days. Nationwide, 80.6% of low-wage workers lack a single day of paid sick leave. And less than half of Latino workers in the US (46 percent) have access to paid sick time compared to 60 percent for all workers.

Working to ensure healthy and productive employees, paid sick leave helps provide a healthy Illinois economy and strengthens the economic security of the state’s citizens.

Written by Militza M. Pagán
Consultant to Voices for Illinois Children

[1] Laws differ on types of employees covered, the number of work hours required to earn paid sick leave, and the maximum number of sick leave hours employees can accrue; a detailed chart of paid sick leave statutes can be at found at http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/work-family/psd/paid-sick-days-statutes.pdf

College Price Tag Growing in Illinois

With the lack of a state budget this year and no funding for tuition assistance grants through the state’s Monetary Award Program (MAP), Illinois lawmakers are putting more students and the state economy at risk of falling behind. Without the promise of financial aid and more affordable tuition, many low-income Illinoisans will not be able to pursue college, a pre-requisite for obtaining a family-supporting career and moving into the middle class.

Even before the current budget impasse, Illinois was not making the needed investments to keep college within reach for aspiring college students. Last week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released data showing that as of 2014, Illinois’ investments in postsecondary education were still lagging 4 percent behind pre-recession levels. This decline in state investments shifts costs onto students and families in the form of higher tuition. Overall, in-state tuition at Illinois’ four-year public universities is up more than $2,300 since 2008.

These higher costs mean many low- and moderate-income students must rely on working full or part-time to pay for tuition and fees. While some work can be beneficial during school, too much work can delay completion and leave students at greater risk of dropping out. And those students choosing to take out loans to pay for college often leave school with large amounts of debt when they enter the job market. In Illinois, one in ten student loan borrowers default on their loan within three years of leaving school.

In the not too distant past, Illinois stood out among many states for its commitment to supporting low-income students to attend college because of MAP grants. But ongoing tuition hikes, coupled with the lack of funding for MAP grants, sends the wrong message to Illinois’ current and aspiring college students about the state’s commitment to postsecondary education.

With more jobs of the future requiring postsecondary education, it is more important than ever for Illinois to invest in the future workers of the state through postsecondary education and skills training.

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Undoing Child Care Restrictions Good for Illinois

Voices for Illinois Children joined ten other organizations today in releasing a memo to members of the General Assembly and Governor Rauner on the need to undo the severe child care eligibility restrictions put in place by Governor Rauner. These restrictions have resulted in 9 in 10 families who were previously eligible being shut out of the program. The text of the memo is below.


From:    Children’s Home + Aid, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Illinois Action for Children, Latino Policy Forum, Metropolitan Family Services, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, ReadyNation, SEIU Healthcare, Voices for Illinois Children, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago
  Members of the General Assembly, Office of the Governor
November 4, 2015
Re:         Positive Impact of SB570 on Illinois Economy, Working Families

Next week the General Assembly has the opportunity to restore Illinois’ commitment to working families by voting yes on SB570, a bill that reverses dangerous cuts implemented unilaterally by the Rauner Administration on July 1, 2015.

The unprecedented use of the Administration’s emergency rulemaking authority to restrict eligibility for child care assistance has resulted in the denial of 90 percent of applicants who would have otherwise been eligible for child care services through CCAP. That means approximately 20,000 children have been rejected from the program since the drastic restrictions took effect July 1.

Access to affordable, quality child care allows low and middle-income parents to enter and remain in the workforce, and gives them the opportunity to provide for their families.

The Illinois economy benefits from the Child Care Assistance Program in the following ways each year:

  • 80,000 Illinois families are able to enter and remain in the work force
  • 69,000 skilled early childhood education workers are employed in early learning facilities
  • 46,450 employers in Illinois rely on CCAP to ensure their employees have a safe place to leave their children and  are able to come to work every day
  • CCAP generated $2.6 billion in revenue in 2014. For every 100 jobs created in child care, 56 are created in other industries.  For every $100 spent on child care, $213 is spent in the economy

But the Administration’s restrictions mean that a single mom of one child entering the work force can only access child care assistance in Illinois if she makes less than 50% of the federal poverty level, or $664 per month ($8.25 per hour for 20 hours per week.) Before the cuts, a single mom of one who earned up to 185% of the federal poverty level, or $2,456 per month (about $15 an hour working 40 hours per week), had access to child care assistance.

The bottom line is that a vote for SB 570 is a vote to restore self-sufficiency for the hard-working families in Illinois who are doing everything we as a society and as a government have asked them to do as they support their children and better their lives. It is a vote in favor of the economic value that thousands of working parents – able to go to their jobs every day because of child care assistance – contribute to both their family’s economic stability and the state’s fiscal well-being. It is a vote for the future of the more than 150,000 children who will have access to child care if SB 570 is passed and CCAP is restored.

We believe that Illinois needs adequate and sustainable revenue that supports the hard-working families in Illinois with the services and supports they need to thrive.  Advocates stand at the ready to work with Governor Rauner and the members of the ILGA on revenue – but we need leadership to get us across the finish line. Until then, voting for SB 570 is the most responsible policy decision lawmakers can make.

Governor’s Rules Severely Restrict Assistance, Put Quality Child Care Out of Reach

Beginning on July 1, Governor Rauner severely cut child care eligibility, which is shutting out 9 in 10 new applicants who would have previously qualified for assistance. With limits on how long the Governor’s “emergency” rule restricting access to child care can be in place, Governor Rauner has filed a “regular” rule to extend the current restrictions indefinitely. The Department of Human Services is holding required hearings about the rule — one yesterday in Springfield and another today in Chicago. Voices’ Policy and Advocacy Director Emily Miller is providing the testimony on the detrimental impact of Governor Rauner’s child care cuts, which are putting child care out of reach for working Illinois families.

Governor’s Rules Severely Restrict Assistance and Put High Quality Child Care Out of Reach for Many Families

Governor Rauner’s child care cuts shut out 9 in 10 new applicants who would have previously qualified for child care assistance, making quality child care increasingly out of reach in Illinois, even for middle-class families.

Without access to the Child Care Assistance Program, too many Illinois parents simply cannot afford the child care that enables them to balance work and family.

Before Governor Rauner’s cuts, a parent with one child could earn up to $2,456 per month (about $14 an hour working 40 hours per week) and still be eligible for child care assistance. Now, a parent re-entering the workforce with one child loses child care assistance if she makes more than $664 per month, only about 20 hours per week at the state’s minimum wage.

According to a report released this week by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington DC, in Illinois:

  • A parent working full time at the state minimum wage needs to spend more than half of her income for quality child care for a 4-year-old.
  • For an infant, that parent needs to spend nearly $4 out of every $5 earned.
  • Annual child care for an infant is now more expensive than full-time, in-state public college tuition.
  • In the Chicago area, a family squarely in the middle class with an infant and 4-year-old will spend 29% of its income on child care.

These conclusions are based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ estimate that child care costing more than 10% of a family’s income is not affordable. On top of stagnant hourly pay and the failure of economic growth to trickle down to most Illinoisans, the governor’s cuts are worsening the situation.

Before Governor Rauner’s cuts, a parent with one child could earn up to $2,456 per month (about $14 an hour working 40 hours per week) and still be eligible for child care assistance. Now, a parent re-entering the workforce with one child loses child care assistance if she makes more than $664 per month, only about 20 hours per week at the state’s minimum wage.

A minimum-wage working man or woman in Illinois simply cannot afford child care without assistance. When welfare reform was passed in the 1990s, there was bipartisan consensus that families struggling to get by needed assistance to afford the child care essential to parents being able to work. Governor Rauner’s decision to limit eligibility for CCAP has made getting by just about impossible for many hardworking families.

Voices for Illinois Children opposes restrictions in CCAP eligibility proposed in the regular rule. The restrictions, which were already put in place through the emergency rulemaking process outside of the state budget process, are already damaging families and small businesses.

The full report referenced in this testimony is available here: “High Quality Child Care Is Out of Reach for Working Families.”


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Press Statement on Failure to Suspend Governor Rauner’s Irresponsible Child Care Cuts

Voices for Illinois Children released the following statement in response to the failure of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to suspend Governor Rauner’s irresponsible child care cuts. In a complaint filed with JCAR, Voices and four other organizations assert that Governor Rauner improperly used emergency rulemaking to severely restrict access to the state’s Child Care Assistance Program.

Voices for Illinois Children is deeply disappointed by the decision not to suspend the Governor’s cuts to child care reached today by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).

Voices continues to assert that on July 1, 2015, Governor Rauner improperly used emergency rulemaking to change the Child Care Assistance Program, or CCAP.  The purpose of CCAP is to ensure that low-income, working families have access so safe, quality early learning environments for their children.

“Lawmakers who did not vote to suspend the Governor’s cuts to child care are on the wrong side of this fight for the future of low- and middle-income families,” said Emily Miller, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Voices for Illinois Children. “Ensuring that parents can go to work and have a safe, enriching place to leave their children is not a partisan issue, and it’s unfortunate that some members of the committee chose politics over children and families.”

With the Governor’s cuts, 90 percent of new applicants who would have qualified are no longer eligible and will be denied child care services through CCAP. Only families that fall within one of four priority populations may now receive child care assistance:

  • families receiving TANF cash assistance
  • children with special needs
  • families earning below 50 percent of the federal poverty level (annual income of less than $10,045 for a family of three)
  • teen parents

Advocates will continue to ask lawmakers to examine the impact of the Governor’s cuts to child care. Members of JCAR have another opportunity to vote to suspend the Governor’s cuts to child care at their next hearing.

“Lawmakers on this panel will have another chance to make things right for children and families, and we hope they’ll take it,” said Miller.

Governor’s Child Care Cuts Harming Children and Families

On June 30, Governor Rauner filed severe new restrictions to child care eligibility that went into effect the next day. These extreme restrictions — which deem working families making only minimum wage too rich to receive assistance — have resulted in approximately 90% of children being denied access to child care since July 1.

These restrictions are not connected to Governor Rauner and lawmakers’ failure to enact a budget. Rather, pulling out this critical work support out from under families was a choice by the Governor.

Watch this ABC-7 report below on how the cuts are harming families at the Albany Park Community Center in Chicago. As Rodney Walker, executive director of the Center, told ABC-7 his “turnaround agenda is turning around the lives of families.”

Increasing Illinois’ EITC Would Reduce Income Inequality

To counteract growth in income inequality, Illinois should double the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. This is a key takeaway from new research done by Federal Reserve economists that found that state EITCs can “significantly increase the extent to which state tax systems reduce income inequality.”

The research found that the higher a state’s EITC, the more powerful the effect. For example, between 2003-2007, when Illinois’ EITC was 5% of the federal EITC, it decreased income inequality by 0.4% (measured by comparing the 10th and 90th percentiles of income). In contrast, the study showed that Maryland’s EITC, which was 20% of the federal EITC, reduced income inequality in Maryland by 2.2%. While these numbers may seem small, the study found that state EITCs can “meaningfully reduce income inequality.”

The research also notes that there is strong evidence that the EITC increases employment rates by rewarding work. Thus, increasing the EITC not only gives low- and moderate-income working families more of what they pay in taxes back, it also results in higher wage income.

Illinois’ EITC is currently 10% of the federal EITC. If Illinois were to double its EITC, more than 900,000 low- and moderate-income working families would see a boost to their income by an average of about $300 annually — an important boost for families trying to make ends meet. While the EITC will not undo the huge growth in income inequality over recent decades, it’s an important step in the right direction.

Winning on Merits, Not on Bribes

Joe Cahill, a Crain’s Chicago Business columnist, says that Mead Johnson Nutrition’s move to downtown Chicago without tax “incentives” shows that “Chicago can attract corporate headquarters without paying bribes.”

The CEO of the company, which makes baby formula, indicated that they wanted “access to resources, employee and visitor amenities,” as well as improving its “ability to attract and retain the very best talent.” 

According to Cahill:

Mead Johnson’s move confirms we can win on the merits alone. Unlike the carnival barkers over in Indiana and down in Texas, we don’t have to pay companies to come here. Those states have to pay because they can’t match our economic assets.

The reasons for the move, even without tax breaks, were numerous, according to a Mead Johnson spokesperson:

…attractive, world-class amenities for employees and global visitors; the availability of a wide range of public transportation options, including direct, efficient airport access; and [Chicago’s] deep and diverse talent pool.

Cahill is glad Chicago seems to have moved beyond offering tax breaks to induce companies to relocate. He points out that “taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize business activity that would occur naturally on its own.” He further argued that tax handouts in an attempt to lure corporate headquarters are a bad idea when mergers and acquisitions mean headquarter locations can shift quickly.  

All of this points to lessons for the state as well. We previously showed why giving tax breaks to large corporations is often a fool’s errand. We highlighted five primary reasons:

  1. Location decisions are almost never really about taxes. As with Mead Johnson, business leaders say they want a high-quality workforce, proximity to markets, and access to high-quality infrastructure such as roads, airports, and public transportation. 
  2. Tax breaks are small potatoes for large corporations. Even large tax handouts are worth very little to most large corporations, often fractions of a percentage point of annual revenue. Though, if a city or state is giving away money, companies certainly won’t turn it down. 
  3. Illinois can’t afford to give away money. Our state already chronically underinvests in vital priorities such as K-12 schools, universities, and transportation infrastructure. With the loss of billions of dollars in revenue due to the recent income tax cut, policymakers will have to cut these investments more deeply to offset additional giveaways.
  4. Companies have every incentive to mislead states. Companies have every incentive to appear undecided about whether they will stay or leave. After all, if politicians knew that executives had already made up their minds about where to locate, they wouldn’t support giving away money.
  5. Giving away money is counterproductive and unfair. Only a small subset of businesses get handouts. All those companies who get no handouts end up receiving lower-quality public services, paying higher taxes — or both.

It’s time for Illinois to focus on bread-and-butter issues that really matter most for businesses and hold the key to broad prosperity: creating a high-quality workforce through world-class schools, improving transportation and other critical infrastructure so businesses can efficiently reach markets, and creating livable communities that attract people from around the world. These are the things Illinois needs to compete, and win. 

What’s Wrong with the New Minimum Wage Bill

bill to raise the state minimum wage that quickly passed the Senate last week contains needless giveaways to businesses at a time when Illinois can ill-afford further revenue losses. The bill (SB 11) also could deter employers from paying more than the minimum wage and guts a significant component of Chicago’s minimum wage increase — automatic cost-of-living adjustments to the minimum wage after 2019. While the Fiscal Policy Center and Voices strongly support increasing the state minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2019, we believe the two provisions are bad ideas.

Minimum Wage Tax Credit for Small Businesses

The bill creates a tax credit for employers with 50 or fewer employees.  It would give the employer a maximum 75-cent credit per worker per hour, applied to most workers at least 18 years old who do not get tips as part of their pay. Starting this July, when the new Chicago minimum wage is set to begin increasing and when Illinois’ minimum wage would increase under SB 11, an employer that paid exactly the local minimum wage would receive the maximum credit. The credit program would expire at the end of fiscal year 2018 (June 30, 2018).

IL and Chicago Minimum Wages by date

The credit quickly phases out, though, when employees are paid more than the minimum wage. For every cent increase in hourly pay, the employer would lose a cent of credit. This structure leads to the first major problem with this proposal.

Problem 1: Employers Have a Disincentive to Increase Wages Above the Minimum Wage

Because the credit phases out, employers are encouraged to pay exactly the minimum wage. If, for example, an employer wanted to give a worker paid the minimum wage a 25-cent raise, it would actually cost the employer 50 cents an hour due to the additional loss of 25 cents worth of tax credit. It seems perverse to encourage employers to pay the lowest legal wage and to discourage pay raises.

Problem 2: Employers Have an Incentive to Decrease Workers’ Pay to Receive Credit

Another perverse incentive is that the wage credit would reward businesses that decrease worker pay to get closer to the minimum wage in order to get a higher credit. Within the credit range, for every 1 cent a business decreased pay, it would receive 1 cent from the state in the form of a tax credit. So a 10-cent-per-hour pay cut would result in 10 cents per hour in tax credit — doubling the savings to the employer.

Problem 3: Giving Away Money to Businesses Who Haven’t Given Any Raises

Under the legislation, employers who already pay at or above the new minimum wage would get the tax credit. In other words, they wouldn’t have to raise their workers’ wages to take advantage of the credit. And even if a business increases pay, the credit can be worth far more than the added cost to the business (see chart below).

In the most extreme case, a business would get $1,500 a year in tax credits for a full-time worker, even though the business would not be incurring any extra costs since it was already paying that worker $9 an hour before the minimum wage hike. Even in cases where employees were previously making below the minimum wage, the employer still sees a net gain in all but one case — where the employee was making exactly the prior minimum wage, in which case the state pays for the entire wage increase.

Problem 4: Unknown Cost to State

Given Illinois’ deep financial problems, which were just made much worse by a 25 percent decrease to income tax rates, lawmakers should be very careful to not worsen an already dire situation with giveaways. However, this is exactly what the wage credit would do. And, so far, lawmakers seem to have little interest in finding out how much this provision would cost. Since lawmakers have requested no official estimate, or “fiscal note,” it is very difficult to know what the cost would be. At the very least, lawmakers should not enact a minimum wage credit without a fiscal note.

The cost of the credit is also likely to increase as the minimum wage increases in Chicago and the state. With higher minimum wage levels, more workers will likely be paid within the credit range. This also suggests that eligible businesses with employees in Chicago will receive a greater wage credit because of the higher minimum wage in the city. 

Preempting Chicago’s Cost-of-Living Adjustment Harms Chicago Workers

Another problematic provision in the legislation would undo one of the most important aspects of Chicago’s recently enacted minimum wage ordinance: automatic increases after 2019 to the city’s minimum wage to reflect rising costs of living. Particularly due to Chicago’s higher cost of living, this cancellation will likely cause significant harm to low-paid workers in Chicago after 2019.

Part of the reason is that the General Assembly is unlikely to raise the state minimum wage past $11 an hour for a number of years after the state minimum wage plateaus at that level in 2019. Low-wage workers in Chicago could wait perhaps a decade or more for the state minimum wage to exceed $13 an hour. As rising living costs erode the value of the Chicago minimum wage, the benefits of the Chicago minimum-wage increase will essentially be undone over time.

The following graph demonstrates why this is. The top two lines represent the Chicago minimum wage by year after 2019 given two levels of annual inflation — 1.5% and 2%. Under these scenarios, Chicago low-wage workers are able to keep pace with increases to the cost of living. The light red line shows Chicago’s minimum wage stuck at $13 an hour after 2019, waiting for state lawmakers to increase the minimum wage above that level. The dotted line represents the state minimum wage and assumes that lawmakers wait five years between state minimum wage increases and then raise the minimum wage by $2 over a 4-year period (equivalent to the phase-in under SB 11).


As is evident, Chicago workers fall further and further behind where they otherwise would have been with annual adjustments that the legislation would preempt. So while the legislation helps low-wage workers outside Chicago, it will almost certainly harm low-wage workers in Chicago after 2019 by preempting existing Chicago law.

Posted to Blog, Economy, Jobs, Workforce