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Everybody Will Benefit from Portland Paid Sick Days Policy

February 1, 2013

by Andrea Paluso

Bus riders in Portland – and the cars that pass them – are getting a stark reminder of why everybody benefits when all jobs guarantee workers can earn paid sick days.

And it’s not just the dozens of coalition organizations who are telling City Council members to pass the policy. Two respected and successful Portland business women want the city to pass a sick time standard as well.

Gun Denhart, co‐founder of Hanna Andersson Corporation, and Lisa Sedlar, former CEO of New Seasons Markets and founder of Green Zebra Grocery, an industry-shifting new chain of health-focused convenience stores, recently issued statements of support for the measure. Both women are known for the unique way they combined very successful businesses with intentionally sustainable practices.

Despite their strong track records running businesses that continue to improve environmental and social outcomes, these two women know that not every problem we face as a society can or should be solved by waiting for employers to incorporate strong values into their business models. Or for consumers to eventually ask it of them.

Which is why they support a citywide sick time policy in Portland. Without one, too many friends, neighbors, employees and parents in our community will continue to work sick and send sick kids to school because they can’t afford to miss a day’s pay – or will lose their job. Right now, 41% of private-sector workers in the Portland area don’t earn a single paid day when they work – and that number nearly doubles to 80% when considering just the food service industry. And that’s unhealthy for every one of us.

Says Lisa Sedlar, “Throughout my career I have focused on sustainability — sustainable food, sustainable farming, and social sustainability. As the CEO of New Seasons Markets, I was proud of what we offered our employees, including paid sick time and health insurance benefits. When my employees are healthy and doing well economically, they’re more likely to thrive personally and professionally, and they can spend their earnings in our local economy – helping other Portland businesses to do well, too….I’m thrilled to support this campaign in Portland and excited to offer paid sick days to my employees at Green Zebra Grocery.”

Gun Denhart agrees, but also sees the importance of the policy for the well-being of children. “At Hanna Andersson we offered paid sick time and other family-friendly policies and found that it was not only good for the health and well-being of our employees and their children,” she said, “but it was good for our business. I understand, however, that many retail businesses in Portland do not offer this benefit. Employees coming to work when they are sick is not good for business – nor is it good for the employees and their children. This earned sick time ordinance is modest and long overdue.”

The two join a long list of Portland business owners and several business associations who support a citywide sick time policy – to help business, the economy, families and Portland’s reputation as a city that understands the power of a local economy based on more than one bottom line.

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