Should Philly force firms to give workers sick pay?

Do you want another 7 days off each year? That's what a City Council mandatory family-sick-pay bill backed by labor and women's groups would impose on Philadelphia companies (or just 4 days off, for businesses with 10 workers or less).

No surprise, it's a popular proposal: Seven of 10 people polled during the May 17 primary said they'd like more sick days, according to Ricardo Valadez, DC-based organizer for the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces, which supports the legislation. (The surprise is that 3 in 10 were willing to say no.)

Valadez's group claims city workers', teachers', janitors', hospital and supermarket unions and women's advocacy groups among its members. 

People who have to pay for this social benefit aren't so happy. "This is going to drive employment out of the city," David Blum, owner since 1988 of Y Pers Inc., a Frankford disposable-wiper maker, told me. He said his union contract already offers his 16 workers each 14 days off. He assumes workers will automatically take the extra days if the bill passes, "because I can't police their family members being sick."

Blum accused bill-backers like Councilman Darrell Clark, D-North Phila., and William K. Greenlee, D-At Large, of imposing social policy on employers without bothering to calculate the cost.

He's not impressed to hear that San Francisco and Washington DC already have similar laws: Those cities are "office-worker" towns where sick pay is already the norm; they lack Philadelphia's industrial base of companies that have the option of moving to nearby towns like Pennsauken or Bensalem, where local labor legislation is scarce.

Poll

Do you support City Council's bill that would require companies to offer seven paid sick days a year (4 days at businesses with 10 workers or fewer)?

He says he supports Philadelphia's chamber of commerce, and a group of factory owners who previously mobilized to slow the impact of higher storm-water fees, in lobbying against the bill. At the least, Blum says he's hoping City Councilman Bill Green, D-At Large, will push for amendments that would keep additional days from being added to union contracts like his, which already provide for paid days off.

Organizer Valadez says his group now counts on support from a majority of City Council, but acknowledges that Mayor Nutter is still opposed. Progress on the bill stalled after a March hearing, but Clarke's office told me he's working on revisions to the bill and hopes to prepare it for a vote in June.

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