City Council committee OKs pro-union ordinance targeting Chicago nonprofits despite opposition – Chicago Tribune

City Council committee OKs pro-union ordinance targeting Chicago nonprofits despite opposition – Chicago Tribune
City Council committee OKs pro-union ordinance targeting Chicago nonprofits despite opposition – Chicago Tribune

An ordinance that would prevent social service organizations from cracking down on unions to win city contracts cleared a key hurdle Tuesday, handing Chicago labor groups a major victory despite efforts by a coalition of major nonprofits to kill it.

The measure, called a “labor peace agreement,” passed a city council committee and will go to a vote of the full city council on Wednesday. The once-dormant proposal has been in the works for three years and found new life in an election year that would strengthen the employment rights of those who work for organizations serving the city within the public health and family and support sectors.

The ordinance maintains that non-profit organizations that receive municipal funds agree not to interfere with the efforts of their employees to organize while the workers agree not to strike, boycott or otherwise stop operations. It will apply to any organization with 20 or more employees and does not exempt religious organisations.

Ahead of the vote, a representative from the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago asked council members to delay a vote on the measure, while Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce CEO Jack Lavin warned that the ordinance would have a chilling effect on residents who need services from nonprofit organizations. The Archdiocese of Chicago also wrote a letter opposing the ordinance, saying it would harm Catholic Charities in Chicago.

“These organizations — all of which provide critical services in every department across Chicago — would be devastated by this proposed ordinance,” Lavin said. “Simply put, this ordinance would cripple these organizations’ ability to support our most vulnerable populations with the essential services they need.”

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Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter and Adrienne Alexander, director of intergovernmental affairs for the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, supported the measure.

“Right now, what’s happened with some agencies where their workers have tried to organize, the workers have faced thousands of dollars in anti-union consultants and law firms that have tried to discourage unionization,” Alexander said.

The measure passed the Joint Health and Workforce Committee 24-5, with Councilmen Roderick Sawyer, 6th, Jason Ervin, 28th, Walter Burnett, 27th, Matthew O’Shea, 19th, and Thomas Tunney, 44th, voting in opposition .

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration has not taken a position on the ordinance.

On Tuesday, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned that the restrictions included in the ordinance would backfire because the city needs to contract with nonprofits to provide services more than those organizations need city funds. Arwady urged council members to slow down the process because she hasn’t seen the latest version of the ordinance, sparking an argument over communication between the City Council and Lightfoot’s administration.

“With all due respect, Dr. Arwady, this has been a three-year process,” said Ald. Sue Sadlowski Garza, 10th, an outgoing City Council member who chairs the Workforce Development Committee. “If you haven’t seen this ordinance in three years, shame on this administration.”

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