Friday, March 15, 2013

Siding with Working Families, Philadelphia City Council Passes Earned Sick Days

Earned Sick Days Will Boost the Economy, Protect Public Health, And Save Philly $10.3 Million A Year

PHILADELPHIA—Philadelphia City Council members voted to pass the Healthy Families and Workplaces Bill on Thursday morning, taking the next critical step in making Philadelphia the latest city in a growing national movement to adopt a paid sick days policy. Passed with strong support from local small businesses, workers, civil rights organizations, advocacy groups for seniors, women, children and the disabled, public health experts, community groups and healthcare professionals, the bill will extend earned sick days to nearly 200,000 workers in Philadelphia, so they are no longer forced to work sick or risk losing critical income or their job. Recent data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows sick days will save Philadelphia businesses more than half a million dollars per year by reducing turnover and increasing productivity, and it will save the city an estimated $10.3 million a year in healthcare costs by reducing preventable emergency room visits.

“Earned sick days is a smart economic policy and it’s the right policy for Philadelphia,” said Councilman Bill Greenlee, who championed the bill. “We need to make sure that working families can cover the basics by enabling them to hang on to critical income when they or their families are ill.”

During the vote, more than 100 people organized by Philadelphia’s Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces filled the room to show their support. The bill will enable workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked, while protecting the flexibility that small business owners need to thrive. The vote in Philadelphia follows a victory in Portland, Oregon, where the city council voted unanimously in favor of paid sick days on Wednesday morning, making it the fourth city to adopt a paid sick days policy.

“For too many Philadelphia families, taking a child to the doctor or staying home with the flu meant losing needed pay – or even a job,” said Marianne Bellesorte, Senior Director of Public Policy and Media Relations at PathWays PA. “Today the City Council stood with Philadelphia’s families by passing paid sick days, so workers can cover the basics by making sure families don't lose critical income or their jobs when they get sick.”

Introduced with eight co-sponsors, and the support of Philadelphia’s Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces, earned sick days passed with 11 votes from Councilman Bill Greenlee, Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilman Curtis Jones, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Councilwoman Marian Tasco, Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr., Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, Councilman Bobby Henon, and Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.

“Turnover among employees is a major cost and a top concern for. When we take care of our employees, they take care of us, and our business thrives,” said Yvonne Thomas, an Action United member and owner of Precious Babies, a daycare in North Philadelphia. “As a business owner, I also can tell you that we need people coming through our doors with money in their pockets. Paid sick days will help Philly’s families—and my customers—stay afloat financially even if they get sick, and that’s good for business.”

In June 2011, Philadelphia City Council passed a similar bill, which Mayor Nutter overturned, going against the will of the Council. The City Council then passed a version of the sick days bill as part of the 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard, extending paid sick day protections to employees of some companies that contract with or get subsidies from the City.

“Thankfully I have earned sick days and I don’t know what I would do without them. When I get sick, I am able to go to the doctor and move on. That’s the way it should be for every working person in Philadelphia,” said 32BJ SEIU member Darren McKoy.

Council’s passage of sick days in Philadelphia follows recent wins in Portland, Oregon on Thursday, Connecticut, which passed the first statewide law in 2011, Seattle in 2011, Washington DC in 2008, San Francisco in 2006, and a victorious ballot initiative in Long Beach, California that granted sick days to hotel workers in November 2012.

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