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Seattle Celebrates Start of Earned Sick Days

September 4, 2012

by Lynne Dodson and Diane Zahn

Banner reflects names of 76 coalition partners.

A year ago, when you went to a local Seattle restaurant, grocery store or even health clinic, there was more than a passing chance that the person serving you might have come to work sick.

What a difference a year can make.  On Sept. 1, 2012, the roughly 190,000 workers in Seattle that did not have paid sick days will now have them. How did Seattle become one of the few cities in the nation to have this basic worker protection? How did it pass over the opposition of the Chamber of Commerce?

It wasn’t easy, but people power made the politics shift to a point where this proposal passed with an 8-1 vote by the Seattle City Council. A lot of negotiations, partnerships, media coverage, and more than 2,500 phone calls, emails and personal testimony by residents made this one of the top political issues of the summer of 2011. The broad coalition helping push this change included the Economic Opportunity Institute, labor unions, small businesses and community groups like Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action.

So what does the paid safe and sick days law do? Like most laws, the exact details can get pretty complicated. But its essence is very simple. Most workers in Seattle will be able to earn paid sick time and use that time to care for themselves or a family member when they are sick or victims of domestic or sexual violence. They will be able to take this time off without losing pay. And they can do so without fear of discipline by their employer.

The law will help create safer and more healthy families and workplaces and prevent the spread of illness. Paid Sick Days — it’s the responsible thing to do. Our next step is to advance this common sense policy to all workers across Washington.


Lynne Dodson is Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Diane Zahn is the Secretary-Treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21. This article originally appeared in The Stand.




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