Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Advances With Nutter's Support
By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Mandatory paid sick leave is now one step closer to becoming the law in Philadelphia after a city council committee gave unanimous approval to the plan. The business community, which has fought the issue for four years, seems resigned to the idea.
The third time may indeed be the charm for Councilman Bill Greenlee, who pushed for paid sick leave in 2011 and 2013, only to see both efforts vetoed by Mayor Michael Nutter. Now, though, the mayor is on board, a point made clear by the lead-off speaker, Nutter's Chief of Staff, Everett Gillison.
"Mayor Nutter believes the time for paid sick leave has come," Gillison said. "It will be a boon to those who need it to take care of themselves, their children and their families while holding down a job."
Nutter jumped on board the concept last year, despite his two earlier vetoes, after convening a task force on mandatory sick leave. That panel recommended that the law cover businesses with 15 or more workers, but Greenlee's bill – approved by the committee – has a lower threshold of 10 workers. Gillison made no mention of that issue in his testimony and it is considered unlikely that the mayor would veto the bill as proposed.
Also testifying was Joe Grace of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, which had fought Greenlee's 2011 and 2013 efforts. This time, the Chamber's opposition seemed muted.
"When the city of Philadelphia imposes mandates on businesses here that other neighboring jurisdictions do not impose," Grace said, "that puts city businesses at a competitive disadvantage."
But Grace indicated that the Chamber as an organization would support the paid sick leave bill with the higher employee threshold.
"The Chamber now respectively asks this committee to consider setting the employer threshold at 15 or more employees," he said, "which is the recommendation of the mayor's task force."
Greenlee, though, would not budge on the 10 worker threshold, and that number will be in the bill sent to the full council for a final vote, expected next week.
Under the measure, workers would earn one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of five sick days per year.
The committee also heard from a longtime Philadelphia restaurant worker, Jason McCarthy, who said co-workers have been fired for calling in sick, and he comes to work sick.
"We don't get paid if we call in sick," McCarthy said. "So we go to work no matter how terrible we feel. There's a sick worker in nearly every restaurant in this city everyday. But there's really no choice for us in the matter. I have worked through colds, the flu, sunburn, fever, strep throat, a broken rib, a broken foot, burns, cuts, even diarrhea."
The hearing also featured a testy exchange between several council members and businessman Dan Calista, who co-chaired the mayor's task force, and who objected to differences between what the panel recommended and what is in Greenlee's proposed legislation.
In accepting the task force report last year, Nutter said his earlier opposition to paid sick leave was because businesses were still coming out of the grips of the recession.
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