PHILADELPHIA - Capping a three year effort of organizing political pressure and a hectic day of vigorous last minute lobbying, the City Council passed a bill here last week requiring most employers to provide their employees with the opportunity to earn paid sick leave. Following the tense, closely watched vote, Council President Anna Verna, who had voted against the measure, announced the result: 9-8 in favor. Supporters of the bill erupted in cheers throughout the halls there after the vote.
The advocacy groups supporting the measure included Women's Way; Pathways, PA; Jobs with Justice and other community grassroots organizations. They had built a coalition of over 100 supporting organizations including the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and many individual unions. Many of them spent the day at City Hall working to ensure that, when the vote took place, it would have a positive outcome.
The bill now awaits the signature of Mayor Michael Nutter, who has not been a supporter. The bill drew opposition from some business groups and the commercial media, including a lengthy article in the business section of the Philadelphia Inquirer arguing that such a law would be too costly for small businesses to bear. But Marianne Bellesorte, senior director of Policy at Pathways PA told the media after the vote that she believed "the mayor will see that this is a great bill" and "this was a bill that everyone needed to think about."
Around 40 percent of all the hourly-wage workers in the city have no sick days. The bill's supporters argued that many are concentrated in fields such as child care and food preparation where it is especially important for workers on the job to be healthy and not be under pressure to come to work sick.
The bill, if it becomes law, would enable workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. Employers of 10 or more workers would be required to provide up to 7 sick days on this basis. The measure would make Philadelphia the third city in the nation to have such a law after San Francisco and Washington, DC. A Wisconsin state law recently passed by the Republican legislature reportedly over ruled a similar measure in Milwaukee.
Photo: Community organizer Dennis Spain leads the chant at Philadelphia's City Hall: "Earned sick time now!" (Ben Sears/PW)