By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — City Council today passed a controversial bill that requires employers to offer earned, paid sick leave to most workers, and Mayor Nutter quickly signed the measure into law.
For advocates of paid sick leave, today’s passage of the paid sick leave bill, by a 14-2 vote, was a long time coming.
Councilman Bill Greenlee (below), sponsor of the measure and two previous ones vetoed by Mayor Nutter, thanked his fellow councilmembers for putting up with his incessant lobbying for paid sick leave.
“I know I have been a pain in the neck for this whole thing. But I think we did the right thing today, and we’re joining the many cities and states around that are providing this reasonable service to people,” he said.
Marianne Bellasorte of Pathways PA, which championed the idea for the past five years, was thrilled.
“It is a great day for all of our workers and for all of our businesses,” she said.
Paid sick leave bills were vetoed by Mayor Nutter in 2011 and 2013, and Bellasorte noted that since then, many other cities have adopted mandatory sick leave laws with good results.
“We are the 17th city to pass paid sick days,” she notes. “So far there have been no bad reports, nothing has gone wrong. Businesses are thriving, workers are thriving. There’s no reason to believe Philadelphia will be any different.”
The bill says that all businesses in the city with ten or more workers must offer paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked. Mayor Nutter said his two earlier vetoes came because he felt at the time businesses were still struggling to rebound from the recession, and now their ability to afford this mandate is greater.
The two “no” votes in City Council came from two of the three Republicans there, David Oh and Brian O’Neill.
“I think the bill sends the wrong message to the business community, especially the small business community,” said O’Neill. He believes only larger businesses -– those with 50 or more workers – should be covered by the law. “If you’re going to take this route, you’ve got to at least be reasonable on the number of employees.”
And Oh said government should not be dictating sick leave policies to businesses.
“What it tells them is that Philadelphia is going to dictate to them the relationship they they’re going to have with their employees,” Oh said.
But supporters of the measure, like 1st District councilman Mark Squilla, said the workers who don’t now have paid sick leave are those who struggle most financially.
“The workers have a chance now to be able to use -– you know, it’s only a couple of days. But in case they’re sick and they’re not able to make it to work that day, they’re protected,” Squilla said.
After signing the bill, Nutter was asked if he regrets his two earlier vetoes.
“I regret that we were in a financial and economic crisis that caused me to seriously evaluate the impact and the real potential concerns that the bill may have on the city’s economy,” he said. But now he believes the impact can be borne by businesses. “The time had come. The tide has shifted. The city has improved economically.”
Nutter also said the current measure is more palatable to him than the earlier sick leave bills because of compromises made by supporters, including Greenlee. Among those changes is that the law originally would have applied to businesses with five or more workers, and now that threshold is at ten.