Business News

Chicago’s Paid Leave Ordinance Revised Amidst Industry Backlash

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Skift Take

In December, a new paid leave law spearheaded by Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was amended with convention goers in mind. The Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) was one of the organizations involved in making this happen, and its local focus will continue this year.

Chicago approved a paid leave ordinance in November that would impact those attending conventions and trade shows. It focuses on “covered employees,” an employee who, in any particular two-week period, performs at least two hours of work for an employer while physically present in Chicago.

Under this scenario, an employee attending an event in Chicago would accrue one hour of sick time and one hour of time off for each hour they work. Employees can sue their employers if they don’t abide.

As originally written, this law would negatively impact Chicago meetings and conventions. The industry fought back with success, resulting in a quick amendment. This resulted in a change in the definition of a covered employee. It now defines them as “any employee who works at least 80 hours in Chicago within any 120-day period.” This change means it no longer impacts business travelers in town for a convention or meeting.

State and Local Politics Impact Business Events

The revision of Chicago’s paid leave ordinance is the type of initiative that the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) is focusing on this year. It has a new separate plan for state and local issues in its 2024 public policy agenda.

“There were many state and local issues in 2023 that impacted the business events industry,” says Tommy Goodwin, ECA’s Vice President. The repeal of Kentucky’s proposed tax on exhibition and conference exhibitors and sponsors is just one example. In addition, the rollback of California’s state-funded travel ban also secured a longer transition period for the industry as part of California’s draft zero-emission forklift rule. Plus, a flurry of state digital advertising tax proposals.

“ECA wants to ensure that states and cities nationwide do not introduce policies that negatively impact business events scheduled to take place there,” says Goodwin. “Whether that’s new laws that restrict how organizers can run their events to well-intentioned, but misguided, proposals to repurpose business events venues for other social purposes. We want to prevent policies that would unfairly harm the event organizers, exhibitors, local suppliers, venues, destinations, and hard-working men and women that work together to create engaging and impactful events nationwide.”

ECA’s other top priorities for the coming year include:

  • Restoring visa operations to pre-pandemic levels while modernizing visa processing.
  • Supporting government policies to help attract and train the next generation of the industry’s workforce.
  • Bringing back communicable disease coverage to event cancellation insurance.
  • Increasing music licensing transparency and stopping anti-competitive behavior by rights holders.
  • Promoting industry-led sustainability and decarbonization efforts that ensure the industry remains in control of its path to Net Zero.
  • Amplifying efforts to raise awareness of the business events industry to a future talent pool.

Advocacy Voice of the Business Events Industry

“ECA has had a very successful 2023, but its work on behalf of our industry is just beginning,” said Marsha Flanagan, president and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and ECA Co-President.

In addition, this year, ECA will introduce new advocacy capabilities, allowing industry leaders to share their stories and make their voices heard in the political and policymaking processes.

“The business events industry has the best and most passionate advocates around, hands down,” said Goodwin. “In 2024, ECA is going ‘all in’ to give them the opportunity to make sure that elected officials hear them loud and clear, whether that’s in Washington, D.C. on ECA Legislative Action Day or on the show floor in their local communities year-round.”

View ECA’s 2024 public policy agenda here.