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Phila. City Council Getting New, Compromise Paid Sick Leave Bill

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A week after a task force endorsed the idea of mandatory paid sick leave in Philadelphia, a city councilman today will introduce new legislation to require exactly that.

Mayor Nutter vetoed two earlier attempts, but supporters believe he's now willing to get behind the measure.

So, councilman-at-large Bill Greenlee will try, try again to make mandatory sick leave the law of the land in Philadelphia.  His attempts in 2011 and 2013 died under Mayor Nutter's veto and in the face of staunch opposition from the business community.

But in the wake of the mayor's task force report, released on December 1st, Greenlee is optimistic that Nutter will get on board.

"The third time will be the charm," Greenlee tells KYW Newsradio.  "I'm looking forward to that day when we stand behind him when he signs the bill."

The task force recommended that mandatory sick leave be required for businesses with 15 or more workers, but the proposal that Greenlee is introducing has a lower threshold.

"Businesses with ten or more employees will have to provide the equivalent of (up to) five paid sick days a year, and businesses under ten would have to provide the equivalent of (up to) five unpaid sick days," he says.

The sick days would be earned at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked. Greenlee says the ten-employee threshold represents a compromise.

"The ten employees is an increase from our last bill, which we had at five.  So we're excluding more workers, which disturbs me.  But in the interest of trying to make a compromise, that's where we're at.  Our problem with 15 (as the task force proposed) is that the higher you go, the more people you exclude.  And the people you're excluding tend to be the ones who need sick leave the most," Greenlee says.

The councilman also believes that both the mayor and some in the business community have eased their opposition to mandatory sick leave because of the success of similar laws in other cities:

"New York has it now.  State of Connecticut; state of Massachusetts; Washington, DC.  It just keeps growing.  We do not believe that this will interfere with the flow of business as much as some of the critics say.  We're asking for just five -- five! -- paid sick days a year. We do not think that is unfair to businesses."

Greenlee's earlier proposals mandated up to seven days a year.

In accepting the task force report last week, Mayor Nutter said his earlier opposition to paid sick leave was because businesses were still coming out of the grips of the recession.  A spokesman for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce said businesses would prefer a higher employee threshold than the 15 recommended by the task force.

Currently, sixteen cities and three states have paid sick leave ordinances.

Still, because today brings the final meeting of City Council this year, Greenlee's plan won't be debated until the new year.  But he says he wanted to introduce the bill quickly in the wake of the release last week of the task force report.

"I think we have to show the advocates, the people who'd been pushing for this bill, and the workers in the city, that we're ready to move," he said.


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