cpz 3648SPRINGFIELD – After the Higher Education in Prison Task Force conducted a yearlong analysis of the current higher education opportunities for people who are incarcerated, Task Force members State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas and State Representative Carol Ammons have proposed changes based on the results of the study to improve educational opportunities for people who are incarcerated.

“It can be challenging for people who are incarcerated to come back to their communities or find work after serving time,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “Offering college courses or a path to get a degree while in prison can  ease this transition and promote rehabilitation instead of punishment. However, there needs to be more transparency and accountability for these programs as reports have demonstrated they are not accessible to folks who are qualified.”

Over the past year, the Illinois Higher Education in Prison Task Force has been analyzing the existing state of higher education programs for people who are incarcerated. This study assessed barriers and opportunities potential students may face, and used evidence gathered to propose ways existing programs can be improved to better support people seeking further education.

House Bill 3648 would continue the work of the task force by requiring the Illinois Department of Corrections to release a report including data such as student enrollment, completion rates, demographics, and educational program spending. It also requires the colleges and universities offering classes to people in prisons to report the academic information of each student to the Board of Higher Education. Both of these reports must also be published online to improve transparency of the program and determine areas where the programs can become more accessible.

“Proper access to higher education programs while incarcerated is one step in the right direction towards rehabilitation,” said State Representative Ammons (D-Champaign), who carried the legislation through the House. “This bill is a hope for incarcerated people that they will be able to secure living-wage jobs much sooner upon release.”

“While we have made steps to better support people who are incarcerated during their time in prison to enter the workforce once they are released, there are still barriers that prevent folks who have interest in these programs from being able to access them,” said Pacione-Zayas. “I hope that this legislation will highlight areas that need to be improved in the current system so that more people can access these life-changing educational resources.”

House Bill 3648 passed the Senate on Thursday.

Category: Press Releases

cpz 3129SPRINGFIELD— Prospective employees may soon have access to increased salary transparency from potential employers, thanks to a new measure led by State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago) and State Representative Mary Beth Canty (D-Arlington Heights).

“Wages and benefits determine how much food caregivers can bring to the table and if they can afford essential health care treatment and other necessary costs that determine a family’s quality of life,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “Transparency is essential to ensure employees are not misled when accepting a role with wages that cannot support them or their family.”

To ensure prospective employees have access to all information on their potential earnings and benefits when determining if they should accept a job, this initiative would require employers with 15 or more employees to publicly post the wage or salary and description of benefits offered for a job, promotion, transfer or other employment opportunity. It also requires employers to provide employees their current wage or salary range along with a general description of benefits upon that employee's hiring, promotion or transfer, upon the employee's request.

If an employer does not comply with the act, the Department of Labor would be allowed to conduct its own investigations or file complaints. Any individual who believes that an employer is in violation of the wage and salary provisions of the act would also be able to file a complaint with the Department within one year after the date the individual learned of the violation.

“When people are left in the dark, they can’t advocate for themselves. Pay secrecy keeps women, people of color and other marginalized groups at a disadvantage when they negotiate salaries, perpetuating the status quo of the gender and racial wage gaps,” said State Representative Mary Beth Canty (D-Arlington Heights). “This bill seeks to disrupt such inequality by informing prospective employees of the pay scales for open jobs so they can make educated decisions as they negotiate compensation.”

“Pay range transparency has become an increasingly important factor for jobseekers, and many employers are already moving in the direction of including pay ranges in job postings. At a time of significant and persistent labor challenges, including a pay range is one important step employers can take to build an immediate level of trust with prospective employees while working to attract and retain a diverse and qualified workforce,” said Brad Tietz, Vice President of Government Relations and Strategy for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. “We thank Rep. Canty and Sen. Pacione-Zayas for working with us on this important measure which will provide the transparency workers are seeking without sacrificing the nuance and flexibility employers need when hiring.”

“We are so grateful to Rep. Canty and Sen. Pacione-Zayas for their leadership on HB 3129. This bill builds on previous legislation and represents the next step in Illinois’ commitment to pay equity and to closing the gender and racial wage gaps,” said Sarah Labadie, Director of Advocacy and Policy for Women Employed. “Pay transparency helps to reduce pay inequities from the beginning of employment, so that they don’t continue through a person’s career. Fair pay practices make economic sense, helping Illinois businesses attract and retain talent, and saving everyone time and money in hiring — a win for workers and business!”

House Bill 3129 passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly and now awaits consideration by the governor.

Category: Press Releases

CPZ PhotoEOSSPRINGFIELD – Freelance workers may soon have legal protections requiring them to be paid in a timely manner and transparency measures that are designed to ensure fair labor practices, thanks to an initiative sponsored by State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas.

“Freelance workers deserve the same dignity other workers receive, including being offered the basic respect of timely compensation for their labor,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “This measure would ensure all workers are paid what they are owed quickly so they can support themselves and their loved ones.”

Freelance workers are people hired as independent contractors to provide products or services for a contracting entity, earning at least $500 for their labor. Because they have a different contract than salaried or hourly workers, the entities that hire them are not held to the same legal requirements as with other employees. This has led to many freelance workers being paid much later for their work than they had been promised, as well as being offered to take a pay cut to get any wages for their labor sooner.

Too often, when disputes over pay arises, freelancers don’t have the time or resources to litigate a payment and go unpaid. According to a 2019 study, 74% of freelancers have reported experiencing late or non-payment, and freelancers lose, on average, $5,968 a year to wage theft.

House Bill 1122, or the Freelance Worker Protection Act, would require contracting entities to pay freelance workers according to the terms stated in their contract. If no such terms exist, then payment shall occur no later than 30 days after they fulfill their obligations under a contract. The contracting entity would also be prohibited from asking freelancers to accept less pay in exchange for being compensated quicker.

Additionally, the initiative would give the Illinois Department of Labor the authority to create new rules on the formation of freelance labor contracts and facilitate an organized complaint procedure to resolve disputes between aggrieved freelance workers and contracting entities It would also require IDOL to create and distribute free model contracts so that freelancers and contracting entities can model their own practice on IDOL-approved examples.

“Freelance workers are workers, entitled to full payment for their work,” said State Representative Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago). “Considering the majority of freelancers report that they live ‘paycheck to paycheck,’ we need these statutory protections to help people stay afloat.”

"There are more freelancers than ever, doing work that is increasingly vital to the economy. But these workers lack basic protections ensuring that they are paid fairly and on time for their labor. We are excited to see Illinois lead on this issue by advancing the Freelance Worker Protection Act," said Eric Thurm, campaign coordinator at the National Writers Union and a member of the steering committee of the Freelance Solidarity Project. "We are grateful to Senator Pacione-Zayas and our House sponsor Representative Guzzardi for championing this bill. Their fight in support of FWPA will help set national standards for how hundreds of thousands of freelancers are treated, and begin to ensure that these workers get the respect and support they deserve."

House Bill 1122 passed the Senate on Thursday.

Category: Press Releases

cpz 3822SPRINGFIELD – Dual language education may soon be more accessible to Illinois students, thanks to a new measure sponsored by State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas.

“Dual language instruction can be transformative for a student, expanding their future career opportunities and strengthening their connection to their culture and develop a global view,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “Improving our dual language offerings will help young people become more well-rounded and have a better understanding of themselves and the world.”

Currently, Illinois supports bilingual education programs by maintaining an advisory council on bilingual education, which reports to the Illinois State Board of Education. However, this council is only required to provide recommendations to best support students and families participating in ESL, or English as a Second Language. While these recommendations are important, this council could use its insights — as  an important table of academics with expertise in various programs of bilingual education — to also  study dual language instruction across the state and provide recommendations on how to support these programs.

House Bill 3822 would require the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education to issue a report to the General Assembly on how to incentivize, improve and expand dual language instruction in schools. The report will include recommendations for expanding dual language programs and instruction, a strategic plan for scaling these programs, planning to build the supply of qualified teachers, and establishing standards for measuring student progress. This report can then be implemented to increase sustainable dual language education programs throughout the state.

“We know that bilingualism is a valuable asset in today’s global society,” said State Representative Abdelnasser Rashid (D-Bridgeview), who introduced the initiative in the House. “This bill will help build a path for all students to have access to high-quality dual language programs, which benefit their academic achievement, enhance cultural preservation, and prepares students for success in the workforce.”

House Bill 3822 passed the Senate on Thursday.

Category: Press Releases

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