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Corporate Lobbyists Block Paid Sick Days for Denver Workers

November 2, 2011

Denver ballot Initiative 300, which would have ensured more than 107,000 restaurant, healthcare, daycare and other employees were able to earn paid sick days, has lost in the face of heavily-funded campaign by corporate lobbyists like the National Restaurant Association.


On the vote, Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values @ Work, says:


“Deep-pocketed lobbyists may have defeated Initiative 300 in Denver, but they can’t stop the momentum for paid sick days around the country.
“We salute the broad coalition in Denver, made up of 160 grassroots groups and business owners, who made visible the incredible need in their city for allowing workers to earn paid sick days. Thanks to the hard work of this coalition, the people of Denver have begun to make themselves heard.
“Their voices will be magnified by groups across the country who will continue to add to the wins our movement has already achieved.”

Here are some of those voices:

Erin Bennett, spokesperson for the Campaign for a Healthy Denver
“The people of Denver lost today – people like home health care nurse Patricia Hughes who was fired after calling in sick with pneumonia; Mandie Freyta, a Latina mother who lost a week’s wages because she stayed home with her four children when they had the flu; and people like barista Laura Baker and bartender Eric Love, who have gone to work sick because they need to work every hour they can just to make the rent.

“The people of Denver were unable to overcome the money and power of big business interests from the National Restaurant Association and other lobbyist groups who are part of a larger national corporate agenda designed to stop paid sick days, increases in minimum wages, overtime pay, protections for the public from second-hand smoke, lower legal blood alcohol levels and accommodations for people with disabilities. The industry-backed campaign committees, Keep Denver Competitive and the Hospitality Industry PAC, spent over $837,000 to defeat I-300.

“Big business lobbyists cried wolf about the consequences of paid sick laws for small businesses – despite the real world growth in large and small businesses in San Francisco in the four years they have operated under a paid sick days law. The opposition also used their money advantage to deceive and spread misinformation about the true implementation costs to the city.

“Counter to the opposition’s claims, paid sick days are the right solution at exactly the right time. History tells us when people are hurting the most, it is exactly the right time for government to step up efforts to protect and promote the welfare of its citizens. It was during the Great Depression that a wave of wage and workplace reforms was enacted. In these troubled times – when Americans are having a hard time finding work, holding on to their homes and feeding their children – government and businesses should not be making it harder to keep a job or be a good parent.

“Though 300 did not pass, significant progress was made moving the issue forward in Denver. The Campaign for a Healthy Denver coalition – made up of more than 160 community, public health and faith groups, advocates for women, children and seniors, unions and their members, business owners, and elected officials – was able to educate the public about the importance of paid sick days for the public’s health, and for the health of working families. And many of the voters in this election joined with us.

“As a result of this campaign, the people of Denver learned they are not alone, that thousands of their neighbors and co-workers struggle with this same tug of war between work and family responsibilities. Only a community acting together on its shared values can fix this problem.

“That’s why there’s momentum behind this effort in Denver and nationally – why there have been major victories in Connecticut, Philadelphia and Seattle this year – and dozens of other cities and states are engaged right now in building support for paid sick days. The Campaign for a Healthy Denver stands committed to continuing the fight to improve the public health of our community and the lives of working families in our city. We plan to reach out to our supporters and talk with them about how best to move forward for a healthy Denver.”

Kyle Legleiter, President, Colorado Public Health Association
“Initiative 300 would have provided a critical public health safeguard for Denver, which is why the Colorado Public Health Association supported this initiative. When workers don’t have paid sick days, it affects all of us. That’s because workers without paid sick days face an impossible choice when illness strikes: risk their economic security by staying home or risk their health and the public’s health by going to work.”

Grace López Ramírez, Director, Mi Familia Vota Colorado State
“I am saddened that 64% of Latino workers that don’t have paid sick days still won’t have the ability to stay home when they or a family member is sick. Latino working families lost tonight because they will continue to put their economic security at risk when they must stay home with sick children. It’s a shame.”

Laura Baker, Starbucks barista
“I’m appalled that Initiative 300 didn’t pass tonight because coffee shop and restaurant workers like me put the public’s health at risk when we’re forced to report to work sick because we can’t afford to miss a day’s pay. I’m frustrated that I’m in the position of having to expose my favorite customers to a bad cold or worse because I can’t afford to make ends meet if I take a day off. It’s just wrong.”

Diana Gadison, owner, Early Success Academy
“I run a childcare center in Northeast Denver, and I’m baffled that the public didn’t vote for Initiative 300 because it’s their own best interest if workers that interact with the public all day every day stay home when they’re sick. When workers have paid sick leave they are much more likely to be healthy every day they’re on the job – especially at childcare centers where kids deserve to learn and play in a safe and healthy environment. Paid sick days is good for business, good for workers and great for our children, so it’s a big disappointment it didn’t pass.”

Amber Minogue, Denver mother of a preschooler
“This outcome is really disappointing for Denver’s families, especially parents who have children enrolled in childcare centers. Not providing paid sick days to caregivers and preschool teachers is a safety issue and a public health risk. My family is just going to have to be hyper-vigilant everywhere we go, whether it’s the grocery store or our local ice cream shop, to protect our health.”

The Campaign for a Healthy Denver – a coalition of more than 160 community organizations, labor groups, faith leaders and organizations, public health groups, elected officials and businesses – was seeking to pass Initiative 300, the Denver ballot initiative to protect public health by guaranteeing a basic standard of paid sick days for employees in all Denver workplaces.





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