Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wisconsin Courts Rule in Favor of Paid Sick Days as Philadelphia Effort Heats Up

"I have witnessed food workers who have gone to work with viral hepatitis infecting salad bars, workers coughing with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and people going to work with flu like symptoms and fever."
- Dr. Walter Tsou, former Health Commissioner, City of Philadelphia
"Even if I have to use my last breath to get this bill passed, I will do it."
- Barbara Lovelace, Philadelphia resident

PHILADELPHIA -As a great victory for paid sick days in Milwaukee was announced by the courts today, Philadelphia City Council heard stories that should give everyone pause, even if they already have sick days. During today's public comment period, Philadelphians told Council of employees spreading disease to others, of lying alone in intensive care because their daughter could not take off work, and of the overwhelming public support for earned sick days.

"I have witnessed food workers who have gone to work with viral hepatitis infecting salad bars,workers coughing with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and people going to work with flu like symptoms and fever." said Dr. Walter Tsou, former Health Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia. "This legislation recognizes that sometimes it is in the best interest of society for workers to stay home. It is also in the interest of society to have a healthy and productive workforce."

For Barbara Lovelace, it was certainly in her best interest for her daughter to have been home when Barbara collapsed in the middle of the street. After going to the hospital and being diagnosed with a heart attack, Barbara entered the intensive care unit. No one knew if Barbara would survive her ordeal - but nevertheless, her daughter was forced to go to work while her mother was in the ICU, or risk losing her job. Barbara is now facing more surgery for her heart, and the potential diagnosis of breast cancer. But, as she told City Council today, "Even if I have to use my last breath to get this bill passed, I will do it."

Across town, church leaders held a briefing for local pastors in the Earned Sick Days bill. Pastors met today to discuss the bill and begin planning for a Paid Sick Days in the Pulpit event in April.

Polls also show strong public support for sick days. "Sick leave policies are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans," said Dr. Jerry Jacobs, a professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, who also delivered comments today. "One national poll showed that 89 percent of voters -- 83 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats - favor paid sick days as a basic employment standard."

Studies in other cities show that both businesses and employees benefit from earned sick days policies. Businesses save money from higher productivity and lower turnover, and workers use paid sick leave responsibly and often do not use all of the time offered to them. A study last month of San Francisco's paid sick days law shows many business concerns about job loss were unfounded, with six in seven employers saying that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability and two-thirds of employers surveyed supporting the law.

Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (Bill 080474) is a bill that would allow workers the opportunity to earn up to nine days of sick time per year. The bill could affect up to 200,000 workers in Philadelphia who do not have access to paid sick days.

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