HARRISBURG lawmakers, not known for their strong work ethic, general commitment to the law (just count up the indictments) or sensitivity to the plight of working people also have a bad sense of timing.
The Senate is again pushing a bill that would invalidate Philadelphia's two-year old paid sick-leave bill. Senate Bill 128, sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger, (R-Blair) claims that the law, which requires city employers with 10 or more employees to grant one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, creates an uneven playing field for businesses around the state, and that the city has no right to make its own labor laws.
Before we get to the many arguments against this bad move, we'd like to introduce Hypocrisy Exhibit A. His name is Vince Fenerty, and on his way out the door of the state-run Philadelphia parking Authority over his serial sexual harassment of more than one staffer, he received last month a lovely parting gift: $227,000 that covered unused vacation time, comp time and . . . wait for it, 534 hours of unused sick time. That's nearly 14 weeks, time that state workers like Fenerty are entitled to, whether or not they use it.
We are also tempted to point out that state lawmakers get gold-plated health insurance, generous per diems and other perks that belie the fact that they are considered one of the most overpaid and underworked lawmaking bodies in the country.
Now let's talk about who benefits from paid sick leave in Philadelphia: 200,000 typically low-wage workers like restaurant employees, who historically have not received paid sick time. If they don't work, they don't get paid, so many work while sick. This is unhealthy, not only for these workers, but also their colleagues and often the public with whom they come into contact.
City Councilman Bill Greenlee pushed for this bill starting in 2008; it was vetoed twice by then-Mayor Nutter, who changed his mind after reviewing a task force report that studied 16 cities and three states with paid sick-leave laws. That report found that costs to businesses are small, and that workers who come to work sick cost employers twice as much as absenteeism due to illness.
But more troubling is the state's dismissal of Philadelphia's status as a city of the first class, which grants it the ability to "frame, adopt and amend their own charters and to exercise the powers and authority of local self-government."
Eichelberger objects to the fact that the city's measure means businesses with more than one location will be forced to comply with a variety of different and changing mandates. Considering the varieties of zoning, taxing and other regulations that vary from municipality to municipality, that's a hard argument to take seriously.