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For a Healthy Denver, Vote ‘Yes’ on Initiative 300

This is a cross-post from Working America.

Right now in Denver, Colo., there is both a jobs and a public health crisis.

Parents are sending their sick children to school. Working adults are unable to take time off and care for elderly parents. Small businesses and taxpayers are spending too much on emergency care. And in restaurants and coffee shops across the city, waitresses and cooks are preparing and serving food while sick.

This fall, the people of Denver have a chance to change all of this by voting ”Yes” on Initiative 300.


Initiative 300 is a very simple proposition:

  • For every 30 hours of work, hardworking men and women in Denver can earn one hour of paid sick leave.
  • This leave is only usable after 90 days of employment.
  • Businesses with 10 or more employees can only accrue a maximum of nine earned sick days, while employees of smaller businesses earn a maximum of five sick days.

This proposition is not partisan or ideological. It is in response to the fact that more than 100,000 Denver workers cannot afford to stay at home when they, or their child gets sick. It is in response to parents having to choose between losing their job and staying home to care for a sick child. It is in response to two out of every five of workers in Denver—including hospital workers, baristas, and food service workers—going into environments and potentially infecting hundreds of others because they can’t afford to miss a day’s wages.

Seniors, who are already facing increased medical costs, are at risk as well. When nursing home workers and other health care professionals work with elderly citizens out of economic necessity, they endanger our most vulnerable—not to mention the workers who don’t have the ability to take time off to care for an elderly relative.

Denver isn’t the only city facing these conditions. Nationally, two out of every three restaurant workers don’t have access to a single day of earned paid sick leave. What’s even more disturbing? An incredible 90 percent of restaurant workers report cooking, preparing and serving food while sick. Not just a little sick either—I’ve heard individuals talk about going into work with incredibly contagious diseases like the flu and H1N1!

It’s no wonder that cities like Seattle and San Francisco and states like Connecticut are passing reasonable earned sick leave provisions. And it’s no wonder that in those cities, earned sick leave laws are receiving support from all sides of the political spectrum. Whether you are a Democrat, Independent or Republican, we’ve all experienced the worry and heartache of taking care of a sick loved one. And I bet neither liberal nor conservative diners want a waiter sneezing in their soup.

I know for a fact that all moms—no matter their political stripes—don’t want to send their child into a school full of sick classmates.

The best news about Initiative 300 is that it’s good for businesses. Studies show that with an earned sick leave provision, between reduced turnover and lower emergency medical costs, Denver businesses will save $1.4 million annually if voters say “Yes” to Initiative 300.

Luckily, we’re finding that Denver citizens support Initiative 300 once they understand it. Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has been going to door to door about earned paid sick days and how the measure could help the city. Last week, after knocking on nearly 18,000 doors, they gathered 3,000 postcards from Coloradans in support of paid sick days and a healthier future for our community.

The simple proposition of 1 hour of leave for 30 hours of work is nonpartisan, reasonable, fair and good for Denver. It reflects our shared values of family, responsibility and the drive to make Denver an even better place to do business, go to school and live healthfully. Initiative 300 is good for families, good for public health and good for businesses.

This fall, say yes to a healthy Denver, and vote “Yes” on Initiative 300.

This year’s election in Denver is an all-mail election. In order to have your ballot counted, make sure you mail it in by Thursday, Oct. 27.

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