City Hall debating new 'Fair Workweek' ordinance

Supporters call it the "Fair Workweek" ordinance. But some businesses complain it could drive them out of Chicago.

Single mother Lechrisha Pearson says she sometimes gets just two hours notice when a hospital cancels her shift as a nurse’s assistant. She’s paid $13.50 cents an hour.

“So, that's over a hundred dollars, before taxes, that I lose. And it's, it's a blow to me financially. I'm a single mother of a teenager,” Pearson said.

While professing empathy for workers such as Pearson, some businesses complain that penalizing them for shift changes less than 14 days in advance could cost millions of dollars, forcing future employers to avoid Chicago.

“If you add another regulation on them, that could put 'em over the top and not want to come to Chicago,” said Jack Lavin, president and CEO of Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. “Early results of this in San Francisco are that workers don't have flexibility. They've lost hours of working. Their schedules are more rigid.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot made a surprise appearance at a City Council hearing on the “Fair Workweek” ordinance. She recalled her own mother's low-wage work at a health care facility in Ohio, and the impact of a cancelled shift and subsequent loss of pay.

“When you're an hourly worker and you're living pay check to pay check, as many of them are, you need to know, ‘Do I need to supplement my income? Do I need child care this week?’” Lightfoot said.

While progressive groups have long sought a "Fair Workweek" law, now that it's part of the mayor's self-described progressive agenda, passage of some version seems assured. Businesses, though, still hope for changes that would reduce the potentially big cost.