Councilman Bill Greenlee on Thursday re-introduced the Healthy Families and Workplaces Bill, which would extend paid sick leave to all Philadelphia workers.
“In this economy, we need to make sure that people can afford to stay home when they or a loved one are sick without fear of falling behind on bills or losing their job,” Greenlee said. “No working person in Philadelphia should be forced to choose between their family’s economic security and their family’s health.”
Representatives from about 110 organizations came out to show their support for the bill, which was co-sponsored by Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilmen Curtis Jones and Wilson Goode, Jr. and Councilwomen Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Cindy Bass and Marian Tasco.
“In the child care field, the restaurant industry and also in the health care field, there are a number of people who don’t have earned sick days,” said Marianne Bellesorte of family advocacy nonprofit PathWays PA. “And they’re also the people who are most likely to come in contact with individuals who are elderly, who are sick, who are young and who are going to be more affected by illness.
Though similar legislation was in 2011 vetoed by Mayor Michael Nutter, who expressed concerns that it would compromise Philadelphia’s competitiveness in attracting employers, some business owners said the opposite.
“My business operates on tight margins, and I’ve found that offering paid sick time to my employees is a policy that boosts my bottom line,” said Lori Davis of Porter’s Childcare in North Philadelphia.
“When one of my employees is sick, I want them to stay home, recover and come back focused and ready to work. Turnover is a huge cost for a business, and training new employees is expensive. My employees stick with me for years, and that helps my business run smoothly.”
Greenlee said he’s confident there’s enough support among Council members for a veto override. “It’s not just a business issue,” he said.
“I’m not trying to knock the business and economic issue, but we’ve also got to consider the health issue here. Health is something a lot of people talk about and I think this is something that is really important to the health not just of the workers, but to the general citizens of Philadelphia.”
Breaking it down
– The bill would allow employees to earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, with a mandatory maximum of 56 paid sick hours in one year.
– Workers at businesses that employ between five and 11 employees would earn a mandatory maximum of 32 hours of paid sick time in a year.
– Businesses with five or fewer employees are exempt from the bill.
– The state of Connecticut and the cities of Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have already passed similar laws.
One man’s story
One restaurant worker from South Philadelphia, who identified himself only as Calvin, discussed the difficulty of choosing between seeking treatment for a health ailment he suffered a year ago and remaining employed.
“Unfortunately, I lost my job,” he said. “Most workers do not make the same choice I made, nor have option to take the day off and are inclined to work sick. In this economy, you can’t ask anyone to risk their job or give up wages.”
“Whether it’s a cold, flu, stomach virus, injury, you name it, people are being forced to choose between keeping food on the table and taking time off. That’s really no choice at all.”
More jobs in jeopardy?
Mayor Michael Nutter in June of 2011 vetoed the bill, leading Council to extend paid sick leave to city-contracted employees only.
Though Nutter said in a letter to City Council that the legislation had a “laudable goal,” he said it would raise the cost of labor in the city, impose burdensome administrative costs on small businesses and render Philadelphia less competitive in the global marketplace when it comes to attracting employers, ultimately costing its citizens work.
“Philadelphians would like jobs with good benefits,” he wrote. “But first and foremost, Philadelphians simply want and need jobs.”
By the numbers
2 out of 5 Philadelphia workers don’t have paid sick leave.
38,600 health care workers in Philadelphia lack paid sick leave.
36,300 Philadelphia restaurant workers lack paid sick leave.
7m Americans were infected by co-workers who went to work sick during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, according to The Center for Disease Control.
92%or more of Philadelphia’s restaurant workers are unable to earn paid sick time, according to an Oct. 2012 report by the Restaurant Opportunities Center.
65%of Philadelphia restaurant workers admitted to working while sick –70 percent of them because they couldn’t afford to miss a day’s wages.