Wal-Mart Deal for Higher Wages in Chicago Highlights Need for Industry-Specific Wage Legislation

For the first time in the nation, Wal-Mart has agreed to a higher wage standard at a new store to be built in Chicago, Illinois.  The retail giant’s commitment was part of an agreement to assure City Council support for zoning approvals, on which the Council voted Wednesday.  The deal also concludes a six-year fight over what will be only Wal-Mart’s second store in the Windy City.  As we reported previously, Wal-Mart reached a stalemate with labor unions in 2006, after the City Council passed an industry-specific wage standard for big box retailers, which was later vetoed by Mayor Richard M. Daley.

IL: Gov. Quinn Signs Anti-Bullying Legislation 

Chicago (AP) -- Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation into law that aims at reducing bullying in Illinois schools.

Quinn signed the bill Sunday at a Chicago school and the law goes into effect immediately. His office says the measure expands the definition of bullying to include communications via e-mail, text message or social networking Web sites.

Quinn says the new law "helps schools protect students so they can succeed both inside and outside of the classroom."

Landline Phone Deregulation to Deny Protection to Illinois Consumers

Illinois has enacted a law that will take away a necessary protection for landline phone consumers. SB 107 strips away the authority of the Illinois Commerce Commission to ensure that landline phone users — residing in 78 percent of households in the state - receive reliable and affordable phone service. Under the law, Internet-based phone services would be completely unregulated. The ICC has been instrumental in promoting universal access to telecommunications services in the state, as mandated by the state’s Telecommunications Act that was last updated in 2001. It required a service provider to offer high-speed Internet access to at least 90 percent of homes outside of the Chicago Metropolitan area. This newly enacted law eliminates such requirement and the ability of Illinoisans to access affordable High-Speed Internet services. Consequently, the law threatens to reduce investment in broadband that could make the state more competitive in the global market.

2010 Legislative Session Roundup: Illinois

Despite a crippling budget crisis — which has proven so divisive that adjournment of the legislature was postponed in order to reach a consensus on the 2011 budget — Illinois managed to pass a few truly progressive pieces of legislation.  But gains by low-wage workers, nursing home residents, low-income communities, and renewable energy producers were offset by atrocious pension reforms impacting teachers and other state employees, as well as a state budget that hardly solves any problems.

Wage Law Enforcement State Trend: Illinois Becomes Most Recent State to Crack Down on Wage Theft

A crime wave has been sweeping Illinois, with surveys of low-wage workers in the Chicago area showing an average of 146,300 cases of wage theft each week -- resulting in about $7.3 million each week in unpaid wages, or $380 million stolen from workers each year.  In order to crack down on this criminal wage theft, the Illinois General Assembly on May 3 nearly unanimously (56-0 in the Senate and 112-1 in the House) passed SB 3568, which will strengthen the state’s ability to enforce violations of the Wage Payment and Collection Act.

Payday Lending Abuses Reined In, As Colorado Joins Other States in Reform

The payday lending trap has been shorting working families to the tune of nearly $5 billion per year ever since the industry exploded onto the scene in the 1990’s.  The number of payday lending institutions has jumped exponentially from 500 in 1990 to about 22,000 today (compared with 14,000 McDonald's), mainly targeting low-income African American and Latino communities. 

Public Employees Earn Substantially Less than Private Sector Counterparts

Refuting right-wing attacks on state workers, a new report by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) and the Council on State and Local Government Excellence (CSGE), Out of Balance? Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation Over 20 Years, demonstrates that state and local employees earn an average of 11 and 12 percent less, respectively, than comparable private sector workers.

Workplace Tragedies Point to Need for States to Take Lead in Workplace Safety

April has seen two major industrial accidents that have captured the national eye. Explosions at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana claimed the lives of forty workers and injured thirty-eight. Much of the media attention on these tragedies has focused on the culpability of employers and enforcement capacity at federal agencies responsible for regulating mine and offshore drilling safety. However, there are proactive steps states can take to address occupational safety hazards and ensure people do not have to sacrifice their personal safety in exchange for a paycheck.