Our neighbors to the north and south have recently passed earned sick time legislation to correct the same problem we’re facing here in Oregon: too many people working in Multnomah County have no earned sick leave – including thousands of local grocery stores, restaurants and medical centers.[i] Here’s what these cities did to protect public health, workers, and employers:
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn signed landmark city legislation into law in September, 2011, ensuring hundreds of thousands of people working in Seattle will be able to earn paid sick days on the job.
When the new law takes effect on September 1st, 2012, an estimated 150,000 workers who previously did not earn paid sick days will begin to accrue them; thousands more workers will be able earn additional paid sick days and have additional flexibility for using them.
Over 100 local organizations and small businesses endorsed the paid sick days proposal. The Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce – whose leadership includes Economic Opportunity Institute, MomsRising, Puget Sound Sage, UFCW 21, Legal Voice, Washington CAN, Puget Sound Association for Retired Americans, M.L. King County Labor Council, and the Washington State Labor Council – mobilized thousands of Seattle workers and voters who called, emailed and turned out in support. Public enthusiasm and the leadership of Councilmember Nick Licata led to passage by the City Council on September 12th by an 8-1 vote.
Beginning February, 2007, all employers in must provide paid sick leave to each employee who performs work in the city. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, a national advocate for earned sick days,
“Sixty-one percent of San Francisco voters approved the city’s paid sick days law in 2006 despite the business lobby’s fierce campaign against it. Under the law, workers in smaller businesses can earn up to five paid sick days per year while workers in larger businesses can earn up to nine. Workers can use the sick time to recover from their own illness, care for a sick family member, or seek routine medical care.
This new study shows what researchers, advocates and the San Francisco public knew to be true: San Francisco’s PSLO has had a tremendous impact on workers’ lives with little to no impact on the city’s businesses. Two-thirds of the employers surveyed now support the PSLO. They overwhelmingly report that their profits haven’t declined as a result of the law and two-thirds report no difficulties with implementation.
The study results suggest that part of the reason the impact on business has been minimal is that workers only take sick days when they need them. Even though the law allows workers to take between five and nine paid sick days annually, San Francisco workers used a median of just three days per year to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member. And one-quarter of workers reported that they didn’t take a single sick day. Commonly used arguments about employee abuse, just like concerns about hindering businesses, simply aren’t reflected in the real-life data coming out of San Francisco. It’s no wonder that the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, one of the chief opponents of the law prior to its passage, now concedes that there has not been an adverse impact on business closures or employee misuse.
This new data proves that access to paid sick days really does make a difference for working families. More than half of the workers surveyed said they have benefitted from the law. And the law has given workers who need paid sick days the most—including parents and workers with chronic health conditions—the time they need to care for their health and the health of their children. Every day we hear the stories of parents who are forced to choose between their children’s health and the financial well-being of their family; lower-wage workers who have to put off visits to the doctor and sacrifice their health to avoid losing their jobs; and workers with conditions like asthma and diabetes that require ongoing care but who are forced to put their long-term health in danger because they have no sick time. This study shows the power of a simple common-sense policy in improving the lives of these workers and their families.”
1Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR)