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Aviation Workers Win Airline Worker Sick Leave Inclusion in Illinois

Date: November 2, 2021

When the Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2017, requires employers to allow employees to use their employer-provided personal sick leave benefits for absences due to an illness, injury or medical appointment of the employee's child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or stepparent, for reasonable periods of time, on the same terms as an employee may use the time for his/her own illness/injury except for aviation workers which were excluded from this Illinois Bill.

As part of a grass roots efforts made up of aviation workers and other supporters, we were able to add HB 106 to the Illinois House for consideration.  HB 106 will extend the right to use employer-provided sick leave to care for an ill or injured child, spouse, sibling, parent, or grandparent to Illinois workers across the aviation industry including flight attendants, pilots, ramp workers, airline mechanics other personnel who were previously excluded from the 2017 bill.

Following last week’s Illinois House vote to extend the Illinois Sick Leave Act protections to aviation workers, airline workers presidents of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Communications Workers of America, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, and the Air Line Pilots Association issued the following statements.

“Aviation workers were only left out because corporations didn’t want to implement new rules,” said Sara Nelson, AFA-CWA International President. “It’s time for airlines and other employers to get on board and stop fighting against basic rights for the workers who make their companies profitable. We are so grateful for the leadership of Speaker Welch and Senate Majority Whip Hastings.”

“We applaud Speaker Welch and the members of the Illinois Legislature who voted to support working people,” said CWA Passenger Service Director Marge Krueger. “We call on Gov. Pritzker to sign this bill without delay so aviation workers will benefit from the same sick leave rights other Illinois workers already have.”

Aviation unions have advocated for this fix, and in recent months workers have called, emailed, and met with members of the legislature to encourage them to act. Following passage in the Senate and the House, the bill now heads to Gov. Pritzker’s desk to be signed.

“This is about fairness and basic dignity for Flight Attendants and all aviation workers,” said APFA President Julie Hedrick. “No one should have to choose between caring for a loved one and paying the bills. This fix will allow aviation workers to use the sick leave they’ve already earned to care for their families.”

“We applaud the Illinois legislature for standing up for aviation workers and closing the sick leave loophole,” said Capt. Joe DePete, President of the Air Line Pilots Association, Intl., the world’s largest airline pilot’s union. “I’m proud of our Illinois-based pilots for their action and advocacy, and I urge the Governor to sign this important measure into law and level the playing field.”

“I’ve earned sick leave through my Union Contract, and I should be able to use it when I need it, as should every other aviation worker,” Scott Pejas, AFA Local Council 8 President, said. “This issue became even more prominent during the pandemic, when many of my flying partners needed that time, they have earned to care for their sick family members.”

“This has far-reaching ramifications across the airline industry,” said Pejas, as some carriers extend to all bases the rights that some receive. “So, in addition to aviation workers across Illinois, this will also help Flight Attendants at some other airlines throughout the country.”

Once signed by Gov. Pritzker, HB 106 will eliminate an unjust exemption that prevents aviation workers from utilizing sick leave to care for a family member or committed partner, rights that were granted to all other Illinois workers under the Illinois Sick Leave Act of 2017.

Aviation corporations successfully worked to exclude workers from these benefits, arguing that this was necessary for the Illinois law to be in parity with the Railway Labor Act of 1936. However, fourteen other states currently extend rights to RLA Title II covered workers without exemptions, and unions representing aviation have collaborated with House Speaker Welch and other members of the Illinois legislature to address the issue.

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