Monday, March 28, 2011

Public Comment in Favor of Bill No. 080474: Dr. Jerry Jacobs

Philadelphia City Hall south elevationMy name is Jerry Jacobs. I received my PhD in Sociology from Harvard University in 1983. I am a professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where I have taught for the last 28 years. I have written 5 books, 75 research articles and have received 30 research grants from the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation among others.

I specialize in an area called work and family policy. I lead an international scholarly organization in this area with over 4,000 affiliates across the country and around the world. My book, The Time Divide, published in 2004 by Harvard University Press, examined work place policies that enable today’s companies and today’s families to work together effectively instead of being at odds with each other.

I believe that the sick leave policy proposed is a modest but very valuable step in the right direction.

  1. Sick leave policies are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. 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.
  2. This is true become so many of us take sick leave for granted. Most professionals and managers have access to paid sick leave as a basic component of their benefits package. Indeed, most workers in most countries are eligible to take paid sick leave.
  3. Nationally, approximately 40 percent of employees lack paid sick leave.
  4. Many in Philadelphia’s service economy lack sick leave. For example, only 26 percent of food prep workers, waiters and waitresses are eligible for paid sick days, and some of these do not have true access because they have not been working with the restaurant for long enough to be eligible.
  5. Sick workers spread germs and get others sick. This is particularly a problem in restaurants and in retail sales where contact with the public spreads disease rapidly.
  6. During the H1N1 epidemic, those who went to work while sick infected an estimated 7 million co-workers nationally.

Evaluations research of the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance in San Francisco shows that the concerns of the critics are unfounded;

  1. The average worker used only 3 paid sick days during the previous year.
  2. Employees tend to treat sick leave as insurance: they consider it a valuable benefit but save it up to use only as needed.
  3. Black, Latino and low-wage workers benefited the most from the law
  4. Most employers support the law and few report adverse effects.

To summarize, the paid sick leave legislation being considered will represent a valuable step to protect Philadelphia’s workers, Philadelphia’s customers, and Philadelphia’s diners, and will not unduly burden Philadelphia’s businesses.

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