By Mike Dunn

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After a daylong hearing in City Hall, a Philadelphia City Council committee today approved a bill that forces local businesses to offer workers paid sick leave.

The vote came after councilmembers took the Nutter administration to task for opposing the plan.

Alan Greenberger, the mayor’s commerce director (below), told City Council’s Public Health Committee that mandatory sick leave would pose an economic hardship on struggling businesses.

(Alan Greenberger.  Image from City of Phila. TV)

(Alan Greenberger. Image from City of Phila. TV)


“There should be universal paid sick leave,” Greenberger acknowledged to the panel.  “My argument is that when we do it in the city of Philadelphia — as opposed to the larger (state or federal) level — there’s a consequence in that it hurts our competitiveness.  That may, we believe and we worry, result in less jobs for businesses, and the possibility that we think is very real that businesses will be scared off from coming here. That’s the issue for us.”

But the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Bill Greenlee (below), argued that it’s a health issue as much as an economic one, since sick workers can get other workers sick.

And he chided the mayor and Greenberger for not sending the city health commissioner, Dr. Donald Schwarz, to answer questions on the health impact.

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(Councilman Bill Greenlee.  Image from City of Phila. TV)

(Councilman Bill Greenlee. Image from City of Phila. TV)


“I think Dr. Schwarz is an honorable man who would have come here and told the truth. And the truth is that a big part of this issue is about the health of Philadelphians, the health of low-income workers,” Greenlee said. “And to steal Jack Nicholson’s line, you can’t handle the truth!”

Health advocates, including a former Philadelphia health commissioner, testified in support, while the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and four smaller chambers of commerce spoke in opposition.

After five hours of testimony, the measure was approved unanimously in the committee.  It now goes to the full Council for a vote, perhaps as early as next week.

But supporters would need 12 of 17 councilmembers to sign on in order to withstand an expected second mayoral veto.

Under the proposal, workers would earn one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked.  Firms with between six and twenty 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.

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