Mayor aims to lift pay, ben­e­fits for home care work­ers

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­ | @fspiel­man

Mayor Lori Light­foot has launched a cam­paign to raise the pay, ben­e­fits and work­ing con­di­tions of Chicago’s house­keep­ers, child care providers and home health care aides who are pre­dom­i­nantly “women of color” and im­mi­grants.

The “Your Home is Some­one’s Work­place” cam­paign is part of the war on poverty she launched long be­fore Blacks and His­pan­ics bore the brunt of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, widen­ing the gap be­tween Chicago’s haves and have-nots.

“We can no longer ac­cept the de­val­u­a­tion of care work­ers who are mostly women of color in our city,” Light­foot was quoted as say­ing in a press re­lease Fri­day.

“I grew up watch­ing my mother as a home health care aide and saw her tire­less work met with min­i­mal pay and no ben­e­fits. We must cre­ate safe work­places for ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of where that work takes place. To­day, in the face of a crush­ing need for care and care work, we be­gin an ef­fort that will im­prove the lives of care work­ers.”

Ac­cord­ing to the mayor’s of­fice, the Chicago area has more than 56,000 care work­ers. It’s a bur­geon­ing in­dus­try ex­pected to grow by more than 200% by 2028.

Those who work in Chicago homes are sup­posed to be paid a min­i­mum wage of at least $13.50 an hour as well as five days of paid sick leave, but many are not, ac­cord­ing to City Hall. They also rou­tinely go with­out health in­sur­ance and paid time off, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to care for their own fam­i­lies.

The cam­paign launched Thurs­day is aimed at pro­vid­ing home care work­ers with a “fair, liv­ing wage,” paid time off, safe work­places and writ­ten ex­pec­ta­tions that have been “mu­tu­ally-agreed upon.”

The cam­paign in­cludes pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ments high­light­ing the con­tri­bu­tions of home care work­ers and a city web­site — www. — that in­cludes re­sources and guide­lines on cre­at­ing safe work­places.

To pre­vent “hu­man traf­fick­ing,” Light­foot also is cre­at­ing a “Pro­tect­ing Work­ers Work­ing Group” to ad­vise the city on ways to stop do­mes­tic work­ers from be­ing ex­ploited by hu­man traf­fick­ers.

An­drew Fox, di­rec­tor of the city’s Of­fice of La­bor Stan­dards, said all Chicago em­ploy­ees “de­serve work­force prac­tices that en­hance eq­uity, ad­dress wage gaps and pro­tect against mis­treat­ment.”

He added: “Care work­ers in par­tic­u­lar are vul­ner­a­ble to ex­ploita­tion and we will con­tinue to fight to up­hold and pro­tect their rights.”

Un­til the pan­demic brought nor­mal life to a halt, Light­foot’s big­gest con­cern was her war on poverty and her plan to tar­get 10 in­ner-city neigh­bor­hoods for an un­prece­dented $250 mil­lion city in­vest­ment and $500 mil­lion more from other gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

She de­liv­ered a $15-an-hour min­i­mum wage — clev­erly tied to her 2020 bud­get — and a pre­dictable sched­ul­ing or­di­nance that pro­vided sig­na­ture vic­to­ries for or­ga­nized la­bor.

Af­ter the stay-at-home shut­down trig­gered by the pan­demic, Chicagolan­d Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent Jack Lavin urged the mayor to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of the min­i­mum wage and pre­dictable sched­ul­ing or­di­nances for six months.

The mayor stood her ground, ar­gu­ing that pro­tect­ing low-wage, es­sen­tial work­ers was more im­por­tant than ever.

Jussie Smol­lett’s lawyers want a video­taped con­ver­sa­tion be­tween a key wit­ness and his at­tor­ney al­lowed as ev­i­dence in the for­mer “Em­pire” ac­tor’s on­go­ing crim­i­nal case.

The video was pro­vided to Smol­lett’s lawyers dur­ing a pre­trial ex­change of ev­i­dence and shows a dis­cus­sion be­tween Olabinjo Osundairo and his at­tor­ney Gloria Sch­midt Ro­driguez while Osundairo was in Chicago po­lice cus­tody last year, Smol­lett’s lawyers said in court Fri­day.

Smol­lett’s lawyers say they believe the video would present ev­i­dence of a con­spir­acy against their client.

Cook County Judge James Linn did not make a rul­ing about whether the record­ing would be en­tered into ev­i­dence, say­ing he wanted to see the video be­fore do­ing so.

Jussie Smol­lett

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