By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For the second time in three years, Philadelphia City Council today is taking up the controversial idea of requiring businesses to offer earned sick leave to their workers.
Marianne Bellasorte of Pathways PA says with turnover on City Council since ’11, the idea will gain support. “We’re bringing in this bill with eight co-sponsors, with 110 organizations behind us, and over 30 businesses signed on in support of earned sick days.”
Under the proposal, workers would earn one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Firms with between six and 10 workers would have to offer up to four sick days per year. Larger firms would have to offer up to seven earned sick days per year. Businesses with fewer than six workers would be exempt. In addition, the victims of domestic abuse could use the sick days for other personal matters, such as meeting with an attorney.
Bellasorte says this is not only good for workers, but also for the local economy. “The city can save about $10 million by passing this legislation in health care costs and emergency rooms costs.”
But the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce remains vehemently opposed to the proposal and members are expected to voice their opposition at today’s hearing. The Chamber’s Director of Public Policy, Joe Grace says, “We have businesses telling us this would be like adding a 53rd week to the payroll. This could add costs of as much as $350 million on city businesses, and potentially cause the loss of as many as 4,000 city jobs.”
And Grace says mandatory sick leave will cause businesses to flee the city.
“We’re concerned about the competitiveness issue, of mandating paid sick leave here in Philadelphia but the surrounding counties do not. Everyone wants to promote healthy workplaces, but not by mandating these added costs on small businesses at a time when they can least afford to pay it.”
Six new council members have arrived since the first sick leave debate in ’11. Bellasorte believes the lawmakers ultimately will be swayed.
“We have the right information on our side. We know that this is successful in other places. We know that everyone benefits from it, whether it’s workers or the employers or the city. I think it’s been a really good opportunity for us to educate the new council members, and talk to them about their concerns, and ultimately to bring them on board.”
But supporters would need 12 of 17 council members to sign on in order to withstand an expected second mayoral veto.