By Sandra VanderVen What happens when a member of Seattle City Council gets the flu? I bet he or she doesn’t go to work that day. If a Council member has a sick kid, I bet he is going to do the right thing and stay home. That right there is the number one reason that the Seattle City Council should give all of us the same option.
Last year, there was a very serious scare. We were all worried that the swine flu would course through our schools, businesses and homes like wildfire, causing widespread, lethal illness. The Centers for Disease Control told us all to stay home if we got sick. Remember the vaccine? If there had been an epidemic, the vaccine would have been late. So staying home was really the best option, but it’s an option that lots of us don’t have. Missing work would cause many people to lose their jobs, or the lost shifts and lost money would wreck their budgets.
Enter Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce. This group of businesses and advocacy organizations believes that if people have to work when they are sick or if they have to send sick kids to school, it is bad for all of us. In fact, it makes all of us sick! So they went to the City Council to ask them to require employers to offer paid sick leave.
The good news is that the City Council’s health committee voted unanimously for the paid sick leave proposal, with only Richard Conlin abstaining. As things stand now, the council has exempted small businesses with less than four employees, but the biggest businesses will have to offer nine paid sick days a year. Employees will begin accruing sick days when they start a new job, but won’t be able to use them until they have worked at least 180 days.
As usual, the corporate lobbyists are on the loose looking for ways to either kill the proposal or water it down before the final vote on September 12. According to Alex Stone of the Economic Opportunity Institute, “Big Business lobbyists are trying to get more concessions. They want to make the waiting period longer, create more barriers to using the leave, and exempt larger businesses.”
The corporate lobbyists are worried about profits, not people. But we only have to look at San Francisco to see what effect paid sick leave will have on local businesses. The people of San Francisco have had guaranteed sick leave since 2007. What they have found is that the effects on businesses are negligible, and the benefits for workers are great.
The bottom line is that our elected city council knows the value of paid sick leave, and it’s only fair to give the people who elected them the same options and benefits that they have. On September 12, they will get the chance to do just that.
Here’s how you can help: Click on this petition to tell the Seattle City Council where you stand. Then come to a rally on September 12th at 1:30 PM in the 4th Ave Plaza at City Hall, and we’ll march up the stairs together to the council chambers for the 2 PM meeting and final vote.