essential employeeCHICAGO – State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) celebrated as legislation that will protect essential workers, increase first-responder benefits and expand collective bargaining rights was signed into law.

“First-responders and essential workers have put their lives on the line for us every day,” Villanueva said. “They deserve a dignified workplace where they can be free from harassment and negotiate fair wages.”

Senate Bill 471 expands paid disability leave for first-responders by 60 days due to decreased access to rehabilitative services. It also elevates the charge of battery of a retail employee to aggravated battery if the incident took place during or up to six months after a declared public health emergency. Aggravated battery would also apply to incidents that occur while an employee is performing duties that include relaying directions for health and safety precautions.

The legislation also requires existing racetracks with 10 or more employees to engage in collective bargaining if the track wishes to expand to include a casino. While the horse racing industry is excluded from federal collective bargaining laws, Illinois has extended similar protections to most businesses. Not all backstretch employees are covered under this bill. Senator Villanueva plans to introduce legislation to expand coverage during veto session.

Gov. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 471 into law on Friday and it is effective immediately.