Reports across the country of retail workers being physically attacked for enforcing safety rules, like the wearing of face masks and social distancing, prompted Illinois lawmakers to take action. A measure was passed getting tougher on those who commit such acts.
Both the house and senate agreed to enhanced penalties – over questions if the plan would actually be a deterrent and concerns the change could be used to target minorities.
Most progressive legislators have long opposed penalty enhancements. But this particular bill was pushed hard by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, so opposition shrank.
Rep. Marcus Evans Jr., D-Chicago, said the bill “sends a clear message” to workers in Illinois and across the country that they “must be respected and protected.” He said retail workers assaulted for telling people to wear masks showed that the bill is needed.
Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, said a person striking a retail worker would already be guilty of a crime, so the measure is indeed an enhancement of the charge that would have been filed. She opposed such an enhancement and triggered a heated response from Hoffman, who shouted at her to “vote no” on the measure if she didn’t agree with it.
Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said the measure was proof that penalty enhancements can be an effective tool. But Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who said she opposes penalty enhancements in general, echoed Evans in saying it was about support for workers rather than increasing penalties. […]
“If we want to help the front-liners, let’s give them and their families some protection, some health care and a pay increase,” [Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago] said.
Sen. Elgie R. Sims Jr., D-Chicago, said he supports the measure because it is “narrowly tailored” to protect public safety while improving victims’ rights.
The six-month window following state or municipal emergency declarations could be revisited in the fall veto session depending on the status of the coronavirus pandemic, said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood.
“I think it’s really important that we support those essential workers who are being attacked with some stricter penalties,” she said. “None of us in the Senate Black Caucus, of course, love these enhanced penalties, but we do know that we’re in a crisis and we have to act on this in this way.”
I guess international pandemics can change peoples’ thinking.
* But, in reality, this was a union omnibus bill…
The measure would also extend disability pay for public employees whose recovery is hindered by COVID-19.
Another portion of bill would assure employees of a horse track that receives a state license for video gambling be informed about the ability to form a union. The track workers would be given rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
The bill passed the House 95-10-5 and passed the Senate 47-3.