Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Philadelphia LGBT & HIV/AIDS Community Leaders Call on Philadelphia City Council to Pass Earned Sick Day Bill

For Immediate Release:
June 8 2011

Lauren Townsend - 215-939-7621
Philadelphia Earned Sick Day Campaign

Stephanie Haynes - 215-888-0722
Philadelphia Family Pride

Philadelphia LGBT and HIV/AIDS Community Leaders Call on Philadelphia City Council to Pass Earned Sick Day Bill

Philadelphia - Today at a Noon hour press conference held at the William Way Community Center, leaders of Philadelphia LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations spoke about their organizations' support of the earned sick day bill and called on Philadelphia City Council to pass it. Each organization that participated in the event is a member of the over 100 organization Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces.

While announcing the support of these prominent organizations representing the city’s LGBT community and people living with HIV/AIDS, Chris Bartlett, Executive Director of the William Way Center, called earned sick days a “key issue for the LGBT community.”

“For decades, we have worked to ensure that the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS – as well as the needs of the entire LGBT community – are met,” Bartlett said. “That’s why we stand together today to urge City Council to get behind this bill that can really make a difference for our families.”

Nurit Shein, Executive Director of the Mazzoni Center stated her strong endorsement of the legislation, calling it a “win-win” for both employers and employees. “As an employer of some 100 people, it makes sense to me to give our employees paid sick days as one way to take care of them and to help ensure loyalty to our organization and our cause. And from an ethical standpoint, it is simply the right thing to do."

The Mazzoni Center is the only health care provider in the Philadelphia region specifically targeting the unique health care needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

Kevin Burns, Executive Director of Action AIDS said that advocating for earned sick leave was “a no-brainer” for his organization which works in partnership with people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, to sustain and enhance their quality of life. “Our goal is to remove barriers. For people living with HIV/AIDS, the result of missing a critical doctor’s appointment because of fear of losing one’s job could be devastating," he said. "It’s time for City Council to knock down this barrier.”

Sherrie Cohen, former lesbian candidate for City Council, highlighted why paid sick leave is especially important for Philadelphia’a LGBT working families: “While most of us take paid sick days for granted, more than 200,000 workers in Philadelphia have no paid sick time. That is especially hard on LGBT families whose incomes are 33% below the incomes of heterosexual married couples. That means LGBT parents are less likely to be able to afford to take unpaid time off from work. It’s time to provide all working families the security they need.”

“This proposal is LGBT-inclusive and an important civil rights measure for LGBT parents who may have sick days for themselves, but who are not currently able to take paid sick days to care for their ill spouse, children or parents,” said Stephanie Haynes, Community Coordinator for Philadelphia Family Pride (PFP). “Parents should not have to choose between a day's pay and taking their sick child to the doctor,” she added.

PFP is a non-profit membership organization serving over 200 LGBT-parented families in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. They create community through family-friendly events and educational activities.

James Rosica, Projects and Development Associate, spoke on behalf of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and the thousands of clients with HIV/AIDS for whom they provide legal assistance, saying: “We know from our clients that too often they go to work even when they can hardly get out of bed. This bill would be a tremendous help for all of them.”

Founded in 1988, the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania is a nonprofit, public-interest law firm providing free legal assistance to people with HIV/AIDS and those affected by the epidemic. We also educate the public about AIDS-related legal issues, train case management professionals to become better advocates for their HIV-positive clients, and work at local, state and national levels to achieve fair laws and policies.

Elicia Gonzales, Executive Director of GALAEI (Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative), did not attend the press conference but said in a statement:

GALAEI supports the “Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces” bill because it will offer economic and health protections to the LGBT community. LGBT individuals are faced with health disparities and many are already fearful of losing their jobs. Research shows that between 15 percent and 43 percent of gay and transgender workers experience some form of discrimination of their sexual orientation or gender identity—factors that have absolutely nothing to do with job performance. A large number of LGBT workers in Philadelphia are forced to go to work ill because they cannot afford to lose pay or risk losing their jobs. Job security is of critical importance to LGBT communities and paid sick leave is necessary for Philadelphia’s LGBT communities.


Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (Bill 080474) would allow Philadelphia workers the opportunity to earn up to 7 days of sick time per year for a large business and up to 4 days per year for a small businesses. It was voted out of the Public Health and Human Services Committee earlier this year. The bill could affect up to 200,000 workers in Philadelphia who do not have access to paid sick days.

The earned sick day bill is LGBT-inclusive. The bill explicitly allows workers to use earned sick time to care for spouses, domestic partners or life partners, parents, grandparents, siblings, biological children, grandchildren, foster children, adopted children, stepchildren, legal wards, and children of workers who stand “in loco parentis” (this phrase covers LGBT parents who do not have a legal or biological relationship to their children.

With over 40 percent of Philadelphians lacking earned sick days, a large portion of the population cannot take the time off work to go see a doctor or obtain medical treatment - regardless of the medical coverage they have.

Employees with earned sick days are more likely to stay home when they are sick, limiting the spread of the illness and protecting co-workers, customers, or anyone else they meet during the work day. During the height of the H1N1 pandemic, people were urged to stay home if they had any signs of the flu, however, those without earned sick days were less likely to stay home because they could not afford to. As a result, nearly 8 million H1N1 cases were traced back to employees going to work while sick.

After an amendment is offered this Thursday by Councilman Bill Greenlee exempting "mom and pop" businesses that have 5 or fewer employees, it is expected that Philadelphia City Council will be voting on the bill on Thursday, June 16, 2011.


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