CHICAGO – Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce have issued the following statement regarding Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Working Families Working Group” recommendations:

“Businesses are at a tipping point and these proposals will only exacerbate the problems facing employees looking for more hours and higher wages. We cannot provide the jobs, pay the wages and invest in local communities while City Hall layers on one cost after another and chases sales out of the City. These policies will not result in more jobs being created or higher wages – just the opposite. City Hall needs to remember that the overwhelming majority of Chicago’s business owners are working families too,” said Rob Karr, president/CEO, Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

“Young people looking for first jobs to gain valuable experience in the workforce are some of the unintended casualties of these types of unaffordable mandates. Teen unemployment will absolutely worsen when employers have fewer dollars to budget for salaries. UIC’s Great Cities Institute published a recent report detailing extraordinarily high levels of unemployment in minority communities: 88 percent of African Americans and 85 percent of Latinos ages 16-19 years old were jobless in 2014. Arbitrary regulations imposed on businesses are one of the causes for this lack of opportunity,” said Theresa E. Mintle, president/CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

In conjunction with the release of the working group’s skewed report, IRMA and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce have released findings from actual job creators who represent businesses that operate every day. The report titled “The Dissent: The Business Perspective on the Effects of Another Mandate on Employers” states the cumulative effect of 14 months of government mandates will not help people get back to work and only continues to weaken Chicago’s economic future. Specifically, the dissenting opinion piece highlights:

  • Employers will respond to a Chicago-only paid sick leave mandate by increasing prices, decreasing employee benefits and hours, limiting expansion, possible cuts to labor, more extensive use of technology, and likely reductions in employee headcounts over time.
  • Communities already suffering from lack of development will see their challenges increase as labor mandates continue, and businesses on the City borders will face further and very real competition from neighboring jurisdictions that offer lower taxes, higher incentives, and no costly labor mandates. 
  • The consequences of higher labor costs will adversely impact employers, employees, and all consumers.
  • The Chicagoland Chamber and IRMA disagree with the notion that paid sick leave has a minimal impact. Everything has a cost, and the cost of a Chicago-only paid sick leave mandate is added onto the growing list of government intrusion into business operations.
  • Instead of continuing to intrude with ill-conceived labor policies, focusing and investing in training workers and the unemployed to compete for the higher paying jobs of today and the future is the single best way to achieve the goals of the working group.

IRMA and the Chamber also cite examples of City Hall mandates impacting hiring and business sustainability:

  • City of Chicago-only $588 million property tax increase that disproportionately burdens the business community. Employers will not receive assistance or tax breaks. In fact, the Mayor is seeking to advance legislation in Springfield to exempt many homeowners from the increase which would place even more of the burden on the employer community.
  • City of Chicago-only starting wage ordinance, which increased labor costs for employers to $13 per hour for each employee by 2019.
  • Cook County sales tax increase that took effect January 1 and increases the rate from .75 percent to 1.75 percent. This increases Chicago’s total sales tax from 9.25 percent to 10.25 percent (and higher in the McPier District), earning Chicago the title of the highest sales tax rate in the nation.
  • City of Chicago-only plastic bag “ban” ordinance. The ban took effect in August 2015 and has been a significant cost to retailers.
  • City of Chicago-only ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products (including menthol) within 500 feet of a school resulting in lost sales with no measureable benefit.

To read the entire dissenting opinion from IRMA and the Chamber, please click here.

About the Illinois Retail Merchants Association
One of the largest state retail organizations in the United States, IRMA serves as the voice of retailing and the business community in state government. Founded in 1957, IRMA represents more than 23,000 stores of all sizes and merchandise lines. From the nation's largest retailers to independent businesses in every corner of the State, merchants count on IRMA to fight for the best possible environment in which to do business in Illinois.

About the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce represents over 1,000 member companies, their 400,000 employees, and over $24 billion in revenue. We combine the power of our membership with our legacy of leadership and business advocacy to drive a dynamic economy. We focus on delivering value for our members, making Chicagoland a world-class place to live and work. Visit