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Tacoma Joins Campaign for Paid Sick Days

Tacoma Joins Campaign for Paid Sick Days

Workers, businesses and community groups in Tacoma, Wash., have made that Northwest city the latest to mobilize around a paid sick days campaign. Meanwhile, the Washington, D.C., City Council is exploring strengthening the district’s paid sick leave law.

The group Healthy Tacoma says that two out of five of the city’s workers—about 40,000— don’t have access to paid time off for an illness or if a family member gets sick. Nationally more than four in 10 private-sector workers and 81% of low-wage workers do not have paid sick days. Says the group:

Customers shouldn't get sick from visiting restaurants and stores, and workers shouldn't have to choose between their health and paying their bills.

Alma Gutierrez, of Tacoma, a single mother of three and former server, told KING5 News that during a shift, she fell and broke a bone in her foot. Her company did not offer her paid sick leave.

Less than two weeks later they called me and said you have to show up tomorrow, otherwise you’re fired.

In fear for her job, Gutierrez used a knife to cut off her cast and showed up to work the next day wearing a splint. The bone didn’t heal properly and still gives her problems.

The goal is to get a paid sick leave ordinance allowing workers to earn sick days before the Tacoma City Council meets as soon as possible. Read more from Healthy Tacoma.

In 2008, the District of Columbia enacted a paid sick days law but it excluded tipped wait staff, including most servers, bussers and bartenders. A bill to add those workers to the law’s coverage is expected to be introduced at tonight’s City Council meeting.

Most business groups oppose paid sick leave laws, claiming they would harm businesses and lead to employers leaving or not locating in jurisdictions. But recent studies back up earlier analyses that show paid sick leave laws do not negatively impact businesses.

A just-released study by the Economic Opportunity Institute of Seattle’s law passed last year found that businesses did not leave and revenue has not dropped since passage of the paid sick days law. Seattle’s economy showed stronger job growth and business formation in the first half of 2013, compared to the same time period in 2012:

There were 7,200 more retail jobs and 3,200 more jobs in food services and drinking places in King County during the first seven months of 2013 than for the same period of 2012.

A D.C. government audit released in June concluded that the requirement “neither discouraged business owners from locating in the District nor encouraged business owners to move their business from the District.”

In March, the New York City Council passed a paid sick days bill and San Francisco and Portland, Ore., have implemented paid sick leave requirements. Connecticut is the only state with a paid sick days law. Campaigns or legislative initiatives are under way in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington State and Wisconsin.

But also as Bryce Covert at Think Progress reports Republican lawmakers backed by their business allies and corporate groups have pushed a number of so-called pre-emption bills, which block the ability of cities and counties to enact paid sick days legislation. Such laws have cropped up in at least 14 different state legislatures and enacted in nine: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

On the federal level in March, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Healthy Families Act, which would give workers the opportunity to earn paid sick leave they could use for personal illnesses or to take care of sick family members, among other uses.

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