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With strong union backing, penalty enhancement bill soars through General Assembly

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


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.

* More

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.

* More

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ducky LaMoore - Tuesday, May 26, 20 @ 2:18 pm:

    ===The bill passed the House 95-10-5 and passed the Senate 47-3.===

    Wow. I would have expected more opposition.

  2. - Huh? - Tuesday, May 26, 20 @ 2:28 pm:

    Good. I’m glad the enhanced penalty bill passed. My oldest daughter is a clerk in a grocery store. She is one of the hidden front line workers that get no glory or recognition for working to provide us with the necessities to live our lives during this crisis.

    I go out of my way everytime I’m in the grocery store to say thank you to the clerks I meet.

  3. - LakeviewJ - Tuesday, May 26, 20 @ 2:30 pm:

    I guess every retail worker in the state already has enough PPE, right? Otherwise this would seem to be a misplaced priority by the union.

    From current law:

    720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(c)

    (c) Offense based on location of conduct. A person commits aggravated battery when, in committing a battery, other than by the discharge of a firearm, he or she is or the person battered is on or about a public way, public property, a public place of accommodation or amusement, a sports venue, a domestic violence shelter, or in a church, synagogue, mosque, or other building, structure, or place used for religious worship.

    Committing battery at at a store is already an aggravating factor. This proposal does nothing.

    But nice work to the ostensible reformers. You perpetuated the notion penalty enhancements do anything to protect the public.

  4. - charles in charge - Tuesday, May 26, 20 @ 3:46 pm:

    Supporting this was rank hypocrisy by those who should be holding the line against mass incarceration.

    Retail employees are legitimately caught in the middle between employers who don’t want to enforce public health rules and customers who don’t want to follow those rules. The idea that this penalty enhancement (which the sponsor ridiculously claimed is not a penalty enhancement) will protect a single retail worker from being assaulted is absurd and flies in the face of all modern research. It’s really sad that UFCW would choose to use its political capital on a phony non-solution like this instead of something that might actually benefit its members.

  5. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, May 26, 20 @ 4:29 pm:

    I actually do not understand why penalty enhancements like this one are bad. I have heard of a case where a Walmart worker had his arm broken by a customer who did not want to wear a facemask. I am disgusted by that action, disgusted at that customer and frankly would like for the law to come down like a ton of bricks on that batterer. True it might not prevent many cases of assault, but everyone including the victim gets the benefit of knowing the individual will not do it again. And since they refuse to wear masks, security cameras should pick them up nicely.

  6. - 17% Solution - Tuesday, May 26, 20 @ 4:38 pm:

    charles in charge: First you say the bill will cause mass incarceration. Then you say this bill is ineffective. Those are opposites, pick a lane.

  7. - Chatham Resident - Tuesday, May 26, 20 @ 10:58 pm:

    The enhanced penalties bill will also come in handy after the pandemic, particularly if there’s Black Friday-related store violence that could threaten the safety of employees and other customers. And perhaps with armed robberies, etc.

  8. - gfalkes - Wednesday, May 27, 20 @ 7:12 am:

    @lakeviewj thanks for actually knowing the law. the only thing this part of the legislation didn’t do was name the law, which would have completed the nonsensical nature of creating a temporary statute that overlaps a permanent one. except now, courts should interpret (c) differently, since clearly the GA intended for public places of public accommodation NOT to include retail stores. /s bad law making here.

  9. - charles in charge - Wednesday, May 27, 20 @ 3:05 pm:

    ==charles in charge: First you say the bill will cause mass incarceration. Then you say this bill is ineffective. Those are opposites, pick a lane.==

    No, both things are true. The bill would lock more people up, but would protect no one. Perhaps the most important lesson of mass incarceration is that it has completely failed in actually delivering public safety.

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