A bill introduced today, April 18, marks a milestone for a campaign led by NESRI partner, ARISE Chicago Worker Center. The Office of Labor Standards ordinance would create a new citywide workplace enforcement agency with the power to enforce city labor protections, including the city minimum wage and paid sick time ordinances.
A 2017 investigation by the Chicago Reporter found the new laws were rarely enforced by the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protections. In fact, around 75% of workers’ complaints have not been investigated.
In addition to equipping the new agency with the tools necessary to investigate and prosecute violations, it enables the city to join forces with community groups that assist workers who are most at risk of abuse on the job, but face barriers to bringing light to the abuse, because of language, immigration status and/or fear of retaliation. The proposed labor standards office is modeled after similar municipal agencies in Seattle and San Francisco. These cities, ARISE and their allies noted during the campaign, have budgeted millions for formal partnerships with the community groups and worker centers that have the trust of vulnerable workers necessary to help them make complaints.