Good things are happening! Chicago mandates paid vacation and sick leave for workers, wages go up for auto workers, Big Oil’s plans for the hazardous Uinta Basin Railway along the Colorado River are stopped in court, and Michigan takes bold action on climate.

Chicago Gets A Vacation

Workers in Chicago will now be guaranteed vacation time, thanks to a sweeping new law passed by the city council last week. The ordinance — which Chicago’s progressive new mayor, Brandon Johnson, touted as “the most progressive paid leave legislation in the U.S.” — is among some of the first laws in the nation to require that employers give their workers paid vacation leave.

The new law, which will take effect in January, guarantees full-time workers 10 days of paid time off a year — five days of sick time, and five days of unqualified paid leave. All part-time workers, meanwhile, will accrue one hour of sick leave and one hour of paid leave per 35 hours worked, up to 10 days total. There are virtually no exceptions: All workers within city limits who work at least two hours in any given two-week period are covered, according to the law.

Chicago’s ordinance is part of a recent, growing push to guarantee paid time off for workers in the “no-vacation nation.” Federal law in the U.S. does not require such paid leave. Until recently, no state did, either. That changed in 2021, when limited paid leave requirements were passed in Maine and Nevada. This year, Illinois passed a similar law — though it excluded Chicago.

Even though such laws are extremely popular, they have proved difficult to pass, making Chicago’s victory here all the more noteworthy. In 2019, Bill de Blasio, then the mayor of New York City, promised to pass a vacation leave guarantee in the city, but failed to push it through, in part due to intense lobbying efforts against it by local businesses.

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In Chicago, too, the paid leave law faced virulent opposition from the local chambers of commerce, which warned it would “devastate Chicago businesses.” Yet the law passed with broad support, securing a 36-12 vote from the city council, and even scored hesitant endorsements from some in the private sector. 

The law is just the latest win for Johnson, who was elected mayor in April. An underdog candidate and former union organizer, Johnson unseated incumbent Lori Lightfoot, a centrist, corporate-friendly Democrat, in a surprise victory for the city’s progressives. In October, Johnson successfully pushed through legislation that, within five years, will phase out the tipped minimum wage. Now, those workers will soon be able to take a vacation, too.

Non-Union Auto Workers Win, Too