After nearly three years, a Chicago City Council committee approved a measure Thursday that would offer workers paid sick leave.
Under the proposal, roughly 460,000 employees would be granted paid sick days. In Chicago, 40 percent of private sector workers don’t currently have any paid sick leave.
Workers can earn up to five sick days every twelve months, according to the proposal. Half of that time can be carried over to the next year if it goes unused.
Restaurant workers cheered at City Hall Thursday after the City Council’s Committee on Workforce Development and Audit approved the measure.
However, some restaurant owners voiced concerns about the measure. Ald. Tom Tunney, who owns Ann Sather restaurants, approved the legislation Thursday but questioned the effect it could have on small businesses.
"Where are the small businesses that used to dot the Southport corridor?” Tunney asked during the hearing. “They can’t afford the rents."
The only industry exempt from the legislation is construction.
According to the Sun-Times, Workforce Committee Chairman Pat O’ Connor explained Thursday that it was due to the industry’s “uniqueness” and the fact that most workers already have paid sick leave or contracts that would exceed the sick time benefit.
“I guess they’re saying, ‘We’re doing fine. Leave us alone,’” O’Connor said.
Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, claimed to not understand why the industry was exempt.
“For whatever reason, they are deciding to exempt the construction industry,” Triche told NBC Chicago. “We don’t understand why there are any exemptions, frankly.”
In the past ten years, 24 cities, including New York City and Seattle, have enacted similar laws.
The measure now moves for a full City Council vote next week.