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It’s hard to imagine how much more information the city government actually needs on paid sick leave. After all, it’s come up for a vote twice since 2011. Both times, it passed, was vetoed by Mayor Michael Nutter, then lacked the Council support to override his stamp of disapproval.

Primarily sponsored by Councilman Bill Greenlee in 2013, Philly’s paid sick leave legislation would have mandated local businesses with six or more employees allow those employees to earn sick time, with pay.

Nutter’s problem with the idea? He worried it would put too heavy a burden on local businesses and reduce competitiveness, even though there’s no evidence to support this.

“The paid sick leave bill, in our opinion, would put thousands of jobs at risk and discourage businesses from coming to the city of Philadelphia,” Nutter said last year. “This type of legislation that we’re talking about here is truly better suited at either the commonwealth level, so that it has a statewide reach, or even at a national level.”

Even though he’s shown strong negativity toward the legislation, he threw supporters a bone this June by creating a “task force,” by executive order, to study paid sick leave legislation—which is the same action Mayor Street took before passing an anti-smoking measure last decade.

Like the measure which banned smoking in Philadelphia bars, paid sick leave has been studied enough already to pass in places apparently more progressive than we: San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Eugene, New York City, Jersey City, Newark, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.

Notice a trend? Some within the government testified last year that a sick leave law may not work here because Philadelphia is, by and large, poorer than a place like San Francisco. There was strong lobbying against the bill conducted by Comcast and the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, among others. But that was before it passed and was enacted in Jersey City, Newark, and Eugene without international incident.

Anyway. It’s a new year, and the first meeting of The Mayor’s Task Force took place at the Community College of Philadelphia on Wednesday, where both supporters and those against the idea testified in front of the task force. Each participant was given four minutes.

Of the 18 speakers, 15 of them were in support—either low-wage workers in Philadelphia, or activists working in coordination with a local community organizing groups, like the Working Families Party, a national organization which recently came to Philadelphia and has thus far collected, they claim, 4,000 signatures from local residents in favor of paid sick leave.

According to testimony, many of the examples used at the meeting were similar to what we heard throughout the city during the last two paid sick leave debates—low-wage workers, including restaurant workers, often have no choice but to work sick. It’s bad for them, it’s bad for their families, it’s bad for the customer.

“I work every single day. My son, Jaden, is almost two, and to give him a good life, I can’t afford to take a day off. That means I also can’t afford to get sick. What my family needs,—along with everyone elses—is the opportunity to stay home when we’re sick, and not risk falling behind on rent and bills, or losing my job,” said Shymara Jones, billed as an airport and fast food worker.

Kati Sipp, director of the Pa. Working Families Party, reiterated this, noting, “Making people go to work sick isn’t healthy and it isn’t fair.”

During the 2013 debate over paid sick leave, polls showed more than 80 percent of Philadelphians supported such legislation and a study produced in part by the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center actually showed such mandates to be good for business, proving to have no downside for profits, reducing employee turnover and making employees happier.

About The Author

Staff writer

Randy LoBasso is the winner of the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association's 2014 Distinguished Writing Award for his news and politics coverage at Philadelphia Weekly. He has also contributed to Alt Ledes, Salon, The Guardian and PennLive.

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