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The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes / Posted on April 2, 2020

"The city had received roughly 500 complaints about nonessential businesses operating in violation of the governor's stay-at-home directive as of Tuesday," the Tribune reports.

Five hundred complaints about 500 different businesses? Or 500 people calling about the same five businesses? It makes a difference, because 500 is an awfully large number (to my lights) of nonessential business to be operating, even in a city the size of Chicago.

"Last week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called on residents and workers to report such businesses.

"Some complaints are for restaurants, bars, yoga studios, hair salons and other inessential businesses, while some are for businesses such as banks and auto shops that are considered essential," said Isaac Reichman, a spokesman for the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, in an e-mailed statement.

I wonder if it was him or the reporter who couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone.

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By the way, the commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is Rosa Escareno. She wasn't available?

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"Businesses that may not be considered 'essential' could face fines up to $10,000 if they remain open."

It's not clear how many fines the city has issued so far, if any, outside of this one:

"Bikram Yoga West Loop was issued a violation notice by the city on Friday. The fitness studio, which said it stayed open because it was a place of 'health and wellness,' faces a fine of at least $500."

I added the link just to shame them in some small way. Namaste!

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"Workers also are encouraged to report employers that are refusing them sick leave, including companies that are essential. Chicago approved an ordinance in 2016 that guarantees workers the ability to accrue five days of paid sick leave each year."

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Let's go back now and take a look at the debate surrounding that ordinance. The city council passed it unanimously, but that doesn't mean it was without opposition.

Take the Tribune editorial board, for example:

The sponsor of the ordinance, Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, called the proposal a "baseline of decency." He argues all workers deserve the option of taking a day off, caring for a loved one or dealing with a family emergency without losing a whole day's pay or worrying about their job security. His plan would require workers to earn paid time off - one hour for every 40 hours worked. Limited unused sick time could be rolled into the next 12-month period, but even under the most generous of circumstances a worker would get only seven paid days off total.

The proposal wouldn't take effect until July 2017.

It's hard to argue against the concept. Workers in the hospitality and retail industries in particular get hardest hit when they get sick. Many of them don't have workplace benefits that include paid time off. So if they get sick, they come to work unwell, or they miss a day's pay and try to make it up later with an extra shift.

This ordinance, though, cannot be viewed as a stand-alone. It has to be considered within the context of other pressures city government places on businesses. The City Council last fall approved a huge property tax increase that will hit businesses hard. Businesses already pay a greater burden of property taxes in Chicago because of Cook County's property tax structure, which assesses commercial and industrial property at a higher rate than residential properties.

And that property tax increase, which is supposed to pay for police and fire pensions, is only the beginning. The pension fund for teachers is dangerously underfunded, and Chicago Public Schools is struggling to pay for day-to-day operations. Expect additional property tax pressure from CPS.

Businesses already have to contend with an increase in the minimum wage. The City Council approved a higher minimum wage for Chicago workers, from the current $10 to $13, phased in by 2019 and then pegged to inflation. Labor groups continue to push for at least $15 an hour.

Then there's the sales tax. The Cook County Board's most recent increase raised it to 10.25 percent in Chicago, the highest rate in the nation. Businesses that ring the city, especially those that sell big-ticket items, feel the pain of that tax increase. Why buy a car, a dishwasher or even cigarettes in Chicago when you can drive a couple of miles and pay half the taxes?

And don't forget the other costs of doing business in Chicago - parking issues, heavy regulation, bureaucratic hurdles and workers' compensation costs that are higher than those in most Midwest states.

Businesses argue that they keep shouldering the burden of Chicago's revenue shortfalls through higher taxes, coupled with a politically progressive City Council agenda that is out of step with the realities of Chicago's and Illinois' business climate right now.

Question: How many aldermen have visited the South and West Sides lately? Socking economically depressed communities with additional hurdles to attract even mom-and-pop stores further damages the areas that need the most help.

Aldermen should be doing everything they can to entice employers to come here, to grow and to expand. That's how you create more jobs for everyone, including the low-income families this proposal attempts to help.

If the City Council wants to encourage more companies to offer paid leave, it should create a tax credit or other incentive to nudge companies to do it. Aldermen should not shove one more mandate down the throats of businesses that already pay their fair share.

I'd like to think they'd want a do-over today - as well as on opposing the $15 minimum wage now that so many frontline workers are being hailed as heroes - but I know better than that.

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Others who don't look so good right now:

"Some business groups, including the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, oppose requiring paid sick leave, saying mounting regulations and costs in the city, from tobacco taxes and the plastic bag ban to minimum wage increases, end up hurting jobs," the Tribune reported at the time.

"'There are a number of ways to address paid sick leave, and the city is going about it only one way, which is employer-funded,' Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel at the retail merchants association, said in an interview."

So Triche preferred paid sick leave to be funded by taxpayers?

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(Triche reappeared on the issue last month in opposition to a labor coalition's demand that another 10 days be added to the ordinance, saying that "Cooler heads need to prevail here. When the city passed the paid leave law, we took into account what the worst-case scenario could be. Which is, we could be dealing with a pandemic. The discussion was, we should legislate for what was the most common scenario." Am I to understand that the city council contemplated a pandemic when it discussed paid sick leave four years ago?)

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Also opposed four years ago:

"'By this language, anyone could call in anytime, without notice, claim an illness, legitimate or not,' said Paul Fehribach, chef and co-owner at Big Jones, an Andersonville restaurant with 25 hourly employees who don't get paid sick days."

(And appearing last week: "A number of male Chicago restaurateurs have responded mostly positively to the Hospitality Emergency Grant Program and the Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund announced Wednesday, according to the Tribune. Most agreed, however, that the funds aren't enough to salvage the industry and save furloughed workers. They also expressed some concern over low-interest loans such as the Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan and the Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund - Big Jones chef and owner Paul Fehribach said he found the idea of taking on new debt in the midst of a crisis to be short-sighted.")

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Also from 2016:

In an unusual turn, the Illinois Restaurant Association, which did not testify at the committee hearing, is not opposing the proposed law, though it stopped short of endorsing it. "In general, the Illinois Restaurant Association is not supportive of mandates on business," Sam Toia, president and CEO of the restaurant trade group, wrote in an emailed statement. "However, we are pleased that this ordinance is more business friendly than those adopted in other jurisdictions."

But:

Some business owners applaud the proposal, saying offering employees good benefits reduces turnover and boosts morale.

Dimo's Pizza owner Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau, who was a vocal supporter of raising the minimum wage, testified that he supports paid sick leave because "our employees need to know that we've got their backs." But he added that "being a business in the city is not easy" and there are questions about how the proposed law would roll out.

Dimo's today:

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They make pretty good pies, too.

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It turns out that paid sick leave is a relatively puny expense for employers - and maybe even a gain if you consider the damage a sick employee showing up for work can do. I saw some dollar figures this week but can't for the life of me can't find the article I saved about it.

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Of course, we're in a different era now. Many more cities (and I believe states) have added paid sick leave policies, and the federal coronavirus relief package includes paid sick leave provisions at least through 2020.

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Friday Update: via Politico Playbook . . .

Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 5.25.27 AM.pngThe Times story: Trump Administration Scales Back Paid Leave In Coronavirus Relief Law.

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

How Surfers Saved Trestles
"They fought together against big money, big government, and almost impossible odds to protect one of the world's most iconic waves."

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NASA At Home
"It brings together a repository of binge-worthy videos and podcasts, engaging e-books on a variety of topics, do-it-yourself projects, and virtual and augmented reality tours, which include the agency's Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station, as well as an app that puts you in the pilot's seat of a NASA aircraft."

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Jonathan Pie On Lockdown, Pt. 3: Tele-Vision
Facades are falling.

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ChicagoReddit

Is my landlord allowed to show my apartment? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

View this post on Instagram

I'm so proud to work with @ornbee who initiated and wrote a piece about mental health during Covid-19 for Walgreens that I ended up getting to create illustrations for. I don't know anyone who isn't struggling with the psychological effects of isolation at this time, mixed with fear of an uncertain future, and grief at the loss of connection and normalcy--myself included. Waking up at the same time every day, exercise, and a daily 5pm FaceTime check in with my family have really helped. And it's kind of dumb and trivial, but I've started a ritual of making popcorn almost every night during quarantine. It feels like a small way to acknowledge that life is not the same--like, congratulations on making it to the end of another weird day, here's a snack. I'm curious what are other people's comfort rituals? What kinds of things, big or small, are you doing to cope during this time?

A post shared by Dani Knight (@daniknightdraws) on

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ChicagoTube

"MalagueƱa" / Sheng Cai

At the Chicago Cultural Center on December 4, 2019.

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BeachBook

World's Largest Jigsaw Puzzle Celebrates 27 Wonders Of Our Planet.

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Who Owns The Copyright To Tattoos? A Court Issues A Landmark Ruling Over LeBron James And Other NBA Stars' Right To License Their Body Art.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Q-Tip Line: Who dat.

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