City Council Overwhelmingly Votes in Favor of Paid Sick Days
Coalition of over 25 organizations cheers this historic vote
Pittsburgh – City Council overwhelmingly voted this morning in favor of legislation that allows all workers in Pittsburgh to earn Paid Sick Days. This legislation strongly protects the public health and ensures that employees don’t have to choose between going to work sick and staying home and losing their paycheck.
The coalition of over 25 public health groups, community organizations, labor unions, faith and environmental groups that has been pushing this legislation cheered the vote.
“This is a historic vote by City Council in support of the public health and working people in Pittsburgh” said Barney Oursler, Executive Director of Pittsburgh United, the coordinating organization for the coalition as he presented thousands of petition signatures the coalition gathered in support of the legislation. “Paid Sick Days are good for workers, good for businesses, and good for our communities. This legislation helps put Pittsburgh on he map as a leading city for the new economy. We are part of a national movement to make sure the economy works for everyone. We need this to attract top quality workers and the businesses that hire them.”
City residents packed City Council chambers this morning to support the passage of paid sick days legislation. They were joined by the leaders of coalition organizations who spoke out in support of City Council’s vote.
“Today, City Council took a stand in support of working people in Pittsburgh.” said Tony Helfer, Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23. “City Council did not let fear mongering by national right-wing talking points overcome the voices of the thousands of Pittsburghers who spoke of why we need Paid Sick Days.”
Paid Sick Days legislation was crafted specifically to target the public health. At a public hearing last week, Sharyce Green, a nurse who has been outspoken on the need for paid sick days to protect public health, explained the connection.
“As a nurse, I see the how rapid the common cold and flu can spread whether it is in the hospital emergency room or the classroom. Paid sick days gives people an opportunity to stay home and get well, while not threatening the livelihood of those who so desperately need to work.”
Minorities and women in low-wage jobs are disproportionately impacted by a lack of paid sick days. In fact, many low-wage workers live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to risk losing a day’s pay if they stay home to nurse an illness. “I dot want to go to work sick, not only because I don’t perform well, but also because I know I’m getting my co-workers and customers sick. But if I don’t go to work I risk my job and I have to figure out what bill not to pay or what food not to buy.” said James Conway, a 25 year veteran of the restaurant industry.
Studies show sick workers perform at less than full capacity which could cost employers $160 billion a year. Although corporate lobby groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers have lobbied against paid sick days, many small business owners are speaking up for the bill. Colin Huwyler, a local small business owner has been vocal in support of the legislation. “If our employees come to work sick, that’s low productivity and a chance that the illness can spread throughout the staff. As a business owner, I cannot afford to have even one person sick,” said Huwyler, CEO and founder of Optimus Technologies.
Across the nation, more than 43 million workers do not have a single paid sick day. Passing this legislation will help some 50,000 Pittsburghers who currently lack paid sick days.
“I work at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Each year, we greet hundreds of thousands of guests, many of them are children. My co-workers do not have a single paid sick day. If they get sick, they have to come to work. That doesn’t stop them from giving me the flu or spreading it to guests. Now, we all suffer,” said Eva Diodati.
Pittsburgh joins 18 cities and counties, including Philadelphia and Montgomery County, Maryland, as among those leading the nation in implementing paid sick days policies. This legislation covers all people who work in the city of Pittsburgh, with exemptions for seasonal workers and the building trades, and allows workers to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time over the course of a year. Protections for small businesses – fewer than 15 employees – were included such as a lower overall cap of 24 hours of earned paid sick time and an exemption allowing them to offer unpaid sick time for the first year. The Office of the City Controller is currently developing guidelines for the implementation and enforcement of this bill, which will go into effect 90 days following their finalization.
Paid sick days legislation was introduced in City Council by Councilman Corey O’Connor and co-sponsored by Councilwomen Deb Gross, Councilwomen Natalia Rudiak, and Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess.
COALITION PARTNERS UNITED FOR PAID SICK: Action United, Fight For 15 PA, Fight Back Pittsburgh & Women’s Caucus of Fight Back Pittsburgh, One Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN), Planned Parenthood of Western PA, The Women and Girls Foundation, Women’s Law Project, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club, 32BJ SEIU Pennsylvania, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23, Unite Here Local 57, Working America, Just Harvest, Pride at Work – Pennsylvania, Clean Air Council, American Federation of Teachers, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition (PSSC), New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, IATSE Local 3, Pittsburgh Federation Of Teachers, First Pittsburgh National Organization for Women, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Coalition of Black Trade Unionists