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June 16, 2011

Second Win This Month, Fourth City to Pass Sick Days Legislation

PHILADELPHIA – At a time when workers are under assault across the country, a broad coalition in Philadelphia has successfully advocated for common-sense legislation that will ensure a healthier workforce and stronger economy.  With the City Council vote today, Philadelphia becomes the fourth city in the country to pass a bill that will ensure workers do not have to choose between their financial security and their health or the health of their families.  The bill, which passed by a vote of  9-8, will allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year to recover from illness, access preventive care or look after a sick child or family member.

The news from Philadelphia comes less than two weeks after the Connecticut state legislature voted for the first-ever statewide paid sick days law. Several other cities and states across the country are actively considering similar legislation. Next week, Seattle City Council plans to introduce a paid sick days bill which could come to a vote in August.  A broad coalition in Denver is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative in November, and in New York City, 35 City Council members are sponsoring a paid sick days bill.  The Massachusetts state legislature is holding a public hearing in July.  In Georgia, a bi-partisan group of state legislators led by five Republicans is supporting a bill that would ensure workers could use sick time to care for their children and loved ones.

More than a dozen other states have coalitions actively organizing in support of paid sick days and paid family leave policies. San Francisco and Washington, DC have already implemented paid sick days laws, and Milwaukee passed a paid sick days ordinance through a voter referendum which received nearly 70 percent support.

“We applaud Philadelphia’s City Council members for standing on the side of workers, families and the economy,” said Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values @ Work, a national consortium of state organizations working for paid sick days and paid family leave policies. “Coalitions of working families are fighting for paid sick days legislation across the country so that taking care of yourself or a loved one will not cost anyone a paycheck or a job. The wave of votes this year demonstrates the strong public support for paid sick days – a small step with enormous impact on public health and on job preservation.”


“Philadelphians from all walks of life came together to fight for paid sick days for everyone in our city,” said Marianne Bellesorte, director of the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces in Philadelphia and Senior Director of Policy at PathWays PA. “This is a common sense measure to preserve public health and promote economic security.”


Polling in cities and states across the country shows overwhelming support for paid sick days.  Polling in Connecticut released this week shows that 72 percent of voters, including 50 percent of Republican voters, support the newly passed measure.  The strong showing of bipartisan support among voters for paid sick days is not unusual – survey after survey across the country has shown voters of both parties want this modest reform that promotes a healthier workforce and strengthens the economy.

With more than 40 million Americans working without paid sick time to care for themselves or ill family members, many hard-working people are unable to take a day off without fear of losing needed income or even a job.  That means workers in jobs that require a high-level of interaction with the public often go to work sick.  During the H1N1 epidemic, 8 million Americans went to their jobs with the flu, in turn infecting another 7 million people with the virus.

In San Francisco and Washington, DC, where laws have already been enacted, studies show that workers are healthier and more productive when they have access to paid sick days.  The studies also refute the corporate lobbyists’ predictions that these modest reforms could negatively impact job growth and business.  In fact, six in seven employers surveyed in San Francisco say that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability and two-thirds of employers support the law.  A growing body of academic research shows the costs of providing paid sick days are extremely small, while the benefits – for employees, employers, and the public – are substantial.

Economists are highlighting job retention policies like paid sick days as a way to support declines in unemployment, which recent figures show is related to a reduction in layoffs and firings, rather than job creation alone.

“Job retention policies that fight unemployment should be a top priority,” said Eileen Appelbaum, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.  “Paid sick days legislation would help deter unnecessary firings, and help keep hard-working people in their jobs.”

Coalitions from other states in the Family Values @ Work consortium working for paid sick days legislation are celebrating the win for working families in Philadelphia.

“The passage of paid sick days in Philadelphia is a great success for the city and for the entire nation. Denver is excited to follow in Philadelphia and Connecticut’s footsteps and provide paid sick days for all workers so that no one has to lose pay or risk losing a job because they have to care for themselves or their family,” said Erin Bennett, Executive Director of Denver 9to5 and director of the Colorado Paid Sick Days Coalition.


“The Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce includes more than 70 community, labor and faith organizations and local businesses. Together, we’ve developed a proposal that offers a responsible and flexible way to ensure everyone has paid sick days — helping to keep people healthy, prevent the spread of disease, and promote more productive workplaces. We’re excited with this win and to see so much enthusiasm about paid sick days, both here in Seattle and across the country!” said Marilyn Watkins, director of the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce and Policy Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute.

“Across the country, working people and elected officials understand that paid sick days is a policy that’s good for the public health, good for families and good for the economy.  It’s time for New York City to join the movement to ensure working families do not have to choose between their financial security and their health or the health of their families,” said Donna Dolan, Chair of the New York State Paid Leave Coalition, a growing coalition of more than 400 community organizations, labor unions and businesses including school nurses, public health groups, restaurant workers and HIV-AIDS service providers.

For more stories from workers and business leaders, visit: http://familyvaluesatwork.org/blog/2011/06/03/workers-and-business-owners-speak-out-for-paid-sick-days/ .