Illinois enacts new laws benefiting union members

Illinois Correspondent

A new year always means new laws, and there are some changes in Illinois law that will be of particular interest to union members in 2023.

Aside from the passage of the Workers’ Rights Amendment which codifies the right to organize in the state constitution, the biggest change among the 180 new laws will be another increase in the state minimum wage.

Beginning in January, workers are entitled to $13 an hour or more, a $1 increase from 2022. There are exceptions for young people under 18 who work less than 650 hours in a year, whose minimum wage will be $10.50; and tipped workers, who will earn a minimum of $7.80 an hour.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed a gradual increase in the minimum wage in 2019, which has increased the wage each year and will continue in 2024 and 2025 until the wage reaches $15 an hour.

In Missouri, the state minimum wage is $11.15 an hour and is set to increase by 85 cents a year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2023.

Currently Georgia and Wyoming are tied for lowest minimum wage in the U.S. at $5.15 an hour, but employers are still subject to the federal minimum wage of $7.25. California and New York have a minimum wage at $15 per hour in certain areas and for businesses of certain sizes, and Washington D.C. has the highest at $16.10 an hour.

Other new laws of interest include:

  • The gas tax increase has been frozen from July to December in 2022, and is expected to resume on schedule on Jan. 1. Funds raised through the gas tax go into the Rebuild Illinois construction projects, which has put approximately $33.2 billion into roads, bridges, mass transit and other transportation projects over the last six years.
  • Illinois has expanded its definition of bereavement to include pregnancy loss and failed adoptions, among other relationships such as siblings, grandparents and stepparents. The state guarantees employees at least 10 days off without pay to cope with a death in the family.“Workers who experience the death of a loved one or other kinds of loss such as a miscarriage or a failed adoption should be able to grieve without the fear of losing their job,” said Jane Flanagan, acting director of the Illinois Department of Labor. “The Family Bereavement Leave Act ensures that those workers will be afforded time off from work to process that grief.”
  • The state has also enacted some changes to the One Day Rest in Seven Act, which guarantees workers the right to a day of rest every work week and breaks for meals or rest during daily work shifts. Currently employees are permitted a 20-minute meal break for every 7.5-hour shift beginning no later than five hours after the start of the shift. Beginning on Jan. 1, employees must now be granted an additional 20-minute break for every additional 4.5 hours worked, and at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every seven-day period. The change was intended to help workers who might be required to work a 12-hour shift with only one 20-minute break.“If employees are being asked to work longer hours by their employer, it is only fair to ensure that these employees also get additional break time,” Flanagan said.
  • Illinois is creating a five-year pilot program aimed at offering assistance and support services like transportation and child care subsidies to eligible people who may have struggled to complete an apprenticeship or internship. The program will report its results to the governor by 2028. The program will be managed through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and coordinated through qualifying organizations to distribute assistance.
  • Food service establishments will be required to ban latex gloves beginning Jan. 1 for the preparation and handling of food, to be replaced by non-latex gloves. If non-latex gloves cannot be found temporarily, the establishment must post a sign warning the public, as some people are allergic to latex. Latex gloves also will be banned for emergency personnel beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
  • On the law enforcement side, all officers will be required to wear body cameras by Jan. 1, 2025. Some local police departments are already implementing the cameras to get ahead of the requirement before it takes effect, including Highland, Illinois, which used video gaming fees to fund the body cameras this year. It is one of the provisions of the SAFE-T act, which came under criticism and legal challenges as it abolishes the cash bail system.
  • The CROWN Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people of color with natural hairstyles. According to a study by Dove, a Black woman is 80 percent more likely to have to change her hair to meet expectations at work and 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of her hair.
  • The Employee Sick Leave Act, which was already expanded in 2021, will now require that the rights provided by the act are made the minimum standard in a collective bargaining agreement.

The full list of new laws is available online at Among the highlights of non-Labor laws: Illinois now has an official snake, known as the milkshake.

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