Submitted by the Evanston Restaurant Association
We are 50 Evanston food business owners (and counting) who are writing to you regarding Evanston’s proposed Ordinance #24-O-23, establishing Evanston’s “Fair Work Week.” As you know, we have reached out and spoken with all of you, individually and in small groups, to express our concerns about this ordinance. Some have asked, “Why would you be against an ordinance called the ‘Fair Work Week?’” The answer is simple…this is a misguided proposal that would destroy workplace flexibility while devastating a broad spectrum of industries that drive Evanston’s economy. We believe our employees value the flexibility and support we provide for them. This ordinance hurts the very people it is claiming to help.
Small businesses are the backbone of this country, and this city. We invest countless hours to create our vision here in the community. We support the schools, pay our taxes, and hire your children. When someone is in need, we are the ones who hold the fundraisers and extend helping hands. Each business here is the embodiment of hopes, dreams, risk, terror, endless hard work, challenge, frustration and ultimately vision. The food businesses who made it through the first three years of the pandemic now find the world in a very different place. Costs are higher, (including ingredients, packaging and labor) and finding qualified staff is more challenging. We struggle with supply chain issues and inflation saps our income flow more every month. And, the pandemic continues to linger. Nationally, the average profit margin in restaurants is about 3 to 5 percent. That means 95 to 97 percent of what restaurants take in as revenue goes into the food, employees, taxes, rent and everything else that comes with running the place. Please take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of a small business owner already struggling with these challenges.
Now is the time to support and celebrate Evanston businesses as opposed to adding increased regulations and governmental overreach. The City recently spent $245,000 on the Evanston Thrives study. A key component of the study was to “Build a toolkit to ensure more equitable investment and support for local businesses.” The study highlighted several action steps that could assist the small business community in a variety of ways. We welcome the continued discussion of this study and the eventual implementation of the recommendations. In the meantime, the best way the City can help small businesses is to enact ordinances that actually encourage growth, hiring and community involvement. The proposed bag tax, cashless ban and fair work week ordinance do not achieve those goals – they hinder them. All of those ordinances go against what Evanston Thrives was trying to initiate – supporting small businesses and promoting economic growth.
In the handful of municipalities across the nation that have enacted this type of ordinance, it has only applied to very large corporations, and/or chains. The proposed Evanston ordinance is the most restrictive of any current ordinance in the entire country. The Evanston ordinance, in its current iteration, would apply to all businesses with 15 or more employees. This is far more restrictive than what is currently in place in other communities:
Seattle: Minimum of 500 employees, or employees in full-service restaurants with 40 locations worldwide.
New York: Limited to fast food establishments with 30 or more locations nationally.
Chicago: Companies with 100 employees, 250 for food businesses.
Berkeley: Restaurants that employ 100 or more staff globally.
A bipartisan group of Colorado lawmakers rejected a similar bill last week. Hundreds of food service workers asked for the bill to be defeated, further indicating strong employee resistance to this type of ordinance.
As for the Evanston ordinance, the term “in writing” or “written” appears nineteen times. The ordinance requires every covered business to retain records of each such written or writing for three years. The City can demand to inspect each of these records in any covered business at any time. An employee has a private right to sue each of us for any slip or oversight – not for a change in schedule or double shift – but for the failure to retain any of these 19 writings. And they can sue up to two years after the fact. There are thirty distinct new causes of action under which we can be sued, fined or both under this ordinance.
Think of how something as simple as the weather affects restaurants with outdoor seating. Rain. A cold snap. Dog days heat. For any weather change, a restaurant must shoulder added costs. And up to two years later, we can be fined or sued for not always keeping perfect written records of schedule changes wrought by Midwest weather.
The financial impact comes most harshly when businesses do right by their employees. An employee needs to miss work to take care of a sick child or a dying parent? The employer must pay extra when another employee voluntarily agrees to cover the shift. Cook County requires mandatory sick leave, yet when Evanston employers follow this law they would need to pay extra to cover those shifts. Limiting the law to only larger businesses only makes this punishment worse. Federal law requires employers with more than 50 employees to grant FMLA leave of up to 90 days. Alas, under Evanston’s Fair Work Week ordinance, an employer granting an employee FMLA leave to care for an elderly parent faces Evanston fine or lawsuit if they bring in another employee to cover the multiple shifts missed and don’t pay extra or keep written records. If multiple employees get sick at the same time – and we are still emerging from the pandemic – the costs skyrocket.
This government’s attempt to intervene in the small business world – to regulate something as complex and shifting as restaurant workforce scheduling – is not acceptable. A city that should be supporting and promoting its restaurant and hospitality industry instead ties our hands and threatens with fines and lawsuits. What makes this feel even more mystifying, though, is the fact that no one – outside of academia and some members of council – asked for this. There are no worker petitions, there are no employees filling City Council chambers. The city is proposing a raft of record keeping requirements and future lawsuits to solve a problem that we see no evidence exists. The “whereas” paragraphs in the ordinance did not come from worker petitions or complaints. Outside research studying the effects of Fair Work Week laws enacted for larger businesses does not provide any adequate evidence that this is needed here in Evanston.
There was no effort by the City Council or administrators to connect with small businesses before putting this proposal forth. The Evanston food business community initiated the meetings with the Mayor and Council members – not the other way around. As the Evanston Thrives study indicated, Evanston’s current focus is reactive, not proactive. That needs to change. The small business community wants to collaborate with the city to address issues that are affecting our community. We are willing and ready to answer questions, provide feedback and listen to concerns. We are not willing nor able to accept continued governmental overreach and unnecessary punitive restrictions. The City’s approach towards small businesses should be one built on trust, respect and understanding.
This is a poorly written ordinance that will only serve to hurt the very employees you are claiming to help. There is no need to table it – please just vote it down now, as Colorado did last week. It is the right thing to do for our employees, our businesses and our community.
|Belgian Chocolatier Piron||Bob Piron|
|Bennisons Bakery||Jory Downer|
|Blind Faith||David Lipschutz|
|Bonsai Café||Patama Pornwirawongwaree|
|Cross Rhodes||Maria Russel|
|Dave’s Italian Kitchen||Dave Glatt|
|DeSalvos Pizza||Stacia DeSalvo|
|Firehouse Gill and Bluestone||Pat Fowler|
|Firehouse Grill||Pete Vernon|
|Good to Go Jamaican||Lenice Levy|
|Kabul House||Akmal Sudsaard|
|LaPrincipal and Cantuccios||Eric Young|
|Le Tour and The Barn||Amy Morton|
|Little Beans Café||Rob Spengler, Shannon Valko|
|Lucky Platter||Derek Gaspar|
|Lush Evanston||Adam Seger|
|Mumbai Indian Grill||Beni Thanet|
|Palmhouse||India Mussell McKay|
|Patisserie Coralie||Pascal Berthomieux|
|Peckish Pig||Debbie Evans|
|Peckish Pig and Palmhouse||Janek Evans|
|Pinto Thai||Chartjongkol Yodtheerak|
|Ridgeville Tavern||Ike Robertson|
|Siam Splendor||Smithprin Chantarangkul|
|Sketchbook Brewing||Cesar Marron|
|Sketchbook Brewing||Shawn Decker|
|Small Business Attorney||Shawn Jones|
|Soul and Smoke||Heather Bublick|
|Soul and Smoke||D’Andre Carter|
|Table to Stix Ramen||Kenny Chou|
|Taco Diablo, Lulus, Five and Dime, Blue Horse||Dan Kelch|
|Tags Bakery||Gretchen Vetter|
|Temperance Brewing||Josh Gilbert|
|Ten Mile House and DB3 Donuts||Fred Gale|
|Union and Union Squared||Heather Behm|
|Union and Union Squared||Vince DiBattista|
|Viet Nom Nom||Alan Moy|
|Wine Goddess||Dianna Hamann|
|Yo Fresh||Larry Murphy|
I totally agree with these business owners. This ordinance is unnecessary and creates bureaucratic nonsense making it even harder than it already is to do business in Evanston. Vote it down.
When the shocking actions of our mayor and council began, I foolishly wrote to my alderman numerous times and even a couple of times to the mayor. When it fell on deaf ears, I stopped and have been quiet ever since.
Thank you, Evanston Restaurant Owners, for waking me up and reminding me we live in a democracy, and it is my responsibility to speak up. Thank you as well for your beautifully written appeal to the City Council.
I moved to Evanston from the West Loop when Evanston was thriving, and I remember remarking to the owner of one of my favorite restaurants that Evanston was becoming the West Loop of the North Shore.
It is hard to believe I said that then when we see what has become of Evanston today.
Before a small minority of Evanstonians elected this mayor and this city council, Evanston was thriving. Indeed, the Pandemic intervened, yet our mayor and council have avoided actions that support the Evanston economy at every turn. Instead, they have spent taxpayer dollars on initiatives that benefit their pet projects.
This latest swipe at the Evanston business community is undoubtedly the most egregious.
Dear Evanston Business Owners, in my heart, I know that our mayor and council are outliers. Please let the residents know what we can do to support you.
Dear Fellow Evanston Residents and Taxpayers, if you want to live in a thriving community, please remember this and all the destructive acts of our council when it comes time to vote.
Jon, I understand your frustration but Mayor Biss is the co-sponsor of this ordinance. As an investor in a local restaurant, I understand your anger but I don’t think it’s fair to direct it at only one of the sponsors.
I offer a great thank you to the many Evanston restaurants owners who have worked so hard to survive during the pandemic–you have made Evanston a fun, interesting place to live. I moved here years ago not only for the lakefront, but to experience the (at the time) thriving downtown, where there was always something exciting to discover. Today I walk through downtown saddened at the many empty storefronts; the last thing we Evanstonians need are regulations that will further disrupt business. The city council’s recent proposals (bag tax, “fair” workweek, cashless ban) are nonsensical and I also strongly urge them to vote it down.
The city council is determined to increase the cost of doing business in Evanston. If you look carefully, you can see the economic development officers in Skokie, Wilmette, Winnetka, and Glenview smiling.
Coming out of a pandemic, why are we doing this? We should be reducing burdensome business regulations not increasing them. What members of the city council thought up this mess? Who supports this?
Daniel Biss and Devon Reid are the co-sponsors of this ill conceived ordinance. You should note that candidate Darlene Cannon spoke out against this ridiculous idea.
Thank you, restaurant owners, for hanging in through the pandemic in order to make Evanston a more interesting and enjoyable place to live. Thank you, too, for the jobs you provide. I hope city counsel considers your
lived experience in making decisions that affect your livelihood.
The damage that one man that sits on council has done to this city is just so so sad… and his lackey’s on council that are scared of being “labeled” and don’t stand up to him are just as bad. Of course he can’t understand why this is the worst of his many terrible ideas… he doesn’t work even when paid as a full time employee as city clerk. He doesn’t understand the toll on small businesses because he lives off the state and views his personal struggles as your and my problems, not his. He can’t pay rent – some social service does it for him. Living expenses? Take a stipend from the state. Hey taxpayer you don’t like it? Move to Wilmette. Don’t want to live in Chicago and moved to Evanston to get away? Too bad, Evanston should be Chicago junior because that’s going so well for them.
Call me what you will but I am fed up. I put the blame on his constituency that voted him in despite his track record as clerk and said enablers above. He has made living in Evanston a version of Whack-a-Mole… stupid issue brought up by him and you have to organize, push back and knock it down. Then the next one comes up and so on and so on. In his world, it is bad to desire a comfortable life for you and your family derived from a lifetime of hard work. He doesn’t have that and neither should you!
Thank you Evanston Restaurant Association. It’s a sad, sad commentary on the current “leadership” of Evanston that this letter was even necessary. The City Council needs to vote this down now, and the voters need to remember who sponsored this ill-conceived proposal, Mayor Daniel Biss and Ald. Devon Reid (8th).
I know from personal expierence losing a small business is hard. My heart goes out to people who are struggling to run their businesses in this economy. But part of the reason our customers have less disposable income to spend is is because of unfair practices like hiring someone full-time and then underscheduling them.
If you can’t afford to pay your employees for the full number of hour you agreed that your employee would work every week, then you can’t afford to run a restaurant.
Thank you for this comment, Lacey. The irony of business owners complaining about income fluctuating due to forces outside of their control while their employees have *always* been dependent on their employer’s whims to get enough hours to afford to live.
It’s been a bit since I waited tables, but I clearly remember anytime I had to call in sick, or was unavailable to cover someone’s shift with zero notice, I was threatened with and frequently punished with a loss of hours. If the folks who signed this are going to argue that they don’t require government oversight, show us some proof that you treat your employees with fairness and dignity without being forced into it.
Note: saying you “hire our kids” echoes the republican party line about minimum wage jobs not needing to pay enough to live on because they are for teenagers. Is this an intentional reference? Are you saying you don’t need to treat your employees fairly because they’re all high school kids working for pocket money?
I’m also wondering why a security guard who pointed a gun at a patron of the Evanston library is still on the Security staff…admittedly, I don’t know details re the incident, but if it led to his being let go from the Niles police Dept, I’m puzzled as to why he’s still working for the library.
I’m not familiar with the details of this new proposed ordinance, Fair Work Week, but I am impressed by the articulateness of the opposition to it. I especially noted that it appears this ordinance has not come about due to employee complaints or requests, and that where such ordinances exist, they seem to exist only for significantly larger businesses that likely have the resources to meet the requirements of it.
I especially noticed the reference to a recent consultants’ study of how to support small businesses in Evanston, which this group seems to support…it’s very common for Evanston to spend googobs of cash on such studies, only to ignore recommendations that seem supported by the community they were meant to serve.
What’s up with Evanston? Come on, folks. We can do better. I’m familiar, as are most residents, with most of the food businesses who signed the letter and I personally support their efforts.