Councilman Bill Greenlee Says New Paid Sick-Days Bill Likely This Year
Councilman Jim Kenney noted last week that he was “almost there” with regard to supporting a new paid sick-days bill in City Council this fall.
“I’ve got the bill right here if you want to sign it,” yelled Councilman Bill Greenlee from a table in the back of Tequila’s Restaurant, where some council members and others had convened for a summit on the state of Philly’s restaurant industry.
Kenney shrugged him off with a laugh, but the point was clear: Another paid sick-leave bill—which would allow workers who do not yet receive it to earn paid time off in Philadelphia—will likely come up this fall. Which means a new fight between some members of Council and the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests will be on hand.
Last year’s bill was co-sponsored by Councilmen Greenlee and Wilson Goode Jr. After getting nine votes in Council, a majority, it was vetoed by Mayor Nutter, only to be passed as an extremely watered-down version, which “amends the 21st-century minimum wage standards of the Philadelphia Code to provide those who receive a city contract must provide paid sick leave to all full-time employees.”
Greenlee says that’s not good enough. He wants his new bill, similar to the old bill, to be passed by the end of the year. The re-hashed idea would allow earned sick days for all Philly businesses with six or more employees. (Businesses with six to 10 employees would be required to allow workers to earn four days; business with 11-plus would be required seven.)
“We knew last time [it passed Council by one vote] that we were getting a symbolic victory,” Greenlee told PW on Friday. “And we knew that the mayor was going to veto it.”
And he expects the Chamber of Commerce to jump in and fight hard again this year. Last time, Council made 18 amendments to the bill to appease the Chamber—and they remained opposed. “They don’t seem to be willing to ever, that I can see, support the bill … [but] it’s not going to be this job killer and drive people out of the city and drive businesses out of the city like they say it is,” Greenlee said.
In 2011, the paid sick-leave bill received the support of local community organizing groups like Action United and Fight for Philly. The Restaurant Opportunity Center’s report, this year, will likely be another arrow in the arsenal when Council takes its gander.
“We would not be supporting something if we thought it would drive businesses out of the city, because it takes those jobs out for the employees we’re trying to help … it would be kind of nonsensical,” continued Greenlee.
According to two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies cited in the Philadelphia report, “workers with paid sick days are 28 percent less likely to be injured at work” and “see a doctor or health care provider at least once a year.” More than 92 percent of restaurant workers in Philadelphia lack paid sick days, and almost 65 percent of those contacted for the report and its surveys note that they have worked while sick. Of those who worked while sick, more than 70 percent said they could not afford to take the day off.
Paid sick days, as have been argued several times in the past in numerous cities where such bills have circulated, don’t just affect the worker in question, but all his/her co-workers and the customers who eat meals prepared in a germ-ridden environment.
Forty-two percent of those contacted for the survey admitted to having sneezed or coughed while handling food.
So, when’s the bill going forward? “I want to introduce [the bill] next Thursday but I don’t think I’m going to introduce it until … we know we have the votes that can pass it,” Greenlee notes.
He says there’s a lot of emotions and lobbying on both sides of this issue in Council, claiming many of his colleagues agree privately that it’s the right thing to do, but are concerned about the impact business owners will say it has on their profit.