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Tacoma becomes 18th U.S. city to pass paid sick days legislation

January 30, 2015
Ryan_Mello

Ryan Mello, Tacoma City Council member: “I am so proud that Tacoma has made history by passing a paid sick leave policy for all working people in our city.”

Following the Tacoma City Council’s vote on Tuesday, Jan. 27, Tacoma becomes the 18th city in the nation – in addition to the states of Connecticut, California and Massachusetts – to pass legislation requiring all private sector employers with one or more employees to offer paid sick and safe leave. The Council voted eight to one to pass the ordinance after passionate public testimony and deliberation that carried on into the late evening.

The ordinance requires all private sector employers with one or more employees to offer up to three days of paid leave per year, accrued at a rate of 40 hours worked to one hour paid leave earned, to all employees working in Tacoma. Accrued, but unused, paid leave will be carried over so an employee can use up to five days leave in their second year of employment. The paid leave can be used in the case of employee illness, illness of a family member or for bereavement. Importantly, the legislation also includes protections for workers experiencing stalking, domestic violence and/or sexual assault, to take paid time off in order to pursue legal protection and safety planning. 

Council Member Ryan Mello led efforts for a stronger policy that would include more than three days leave, and a policy that includes all workers. “I am so proud that Tacoma has made history by passing a paid sick leave policy for all working people in our city,” he said. “More families will have greater piece of mind and our public health will be that much better. This is not a perfect policy, but it is a significant step in the right direction and I am committed to improving this over the coming year.”

Following an amendment made by Mello, all workers, including those subject to collective bargaining agreements, will be covered under the ordinance. Rulemaking will begin shortly and the ordinance will go into effect on Feb. 1, 2016.

On the impact of a paid sick leave policy in Tacoma, Mello said, “This is a key strategy to grow our economy from the middle out, not trickle down, and to help those most vulnerable in our economy or community.”

Tacoma is the first city in the nation to pass a paid sick days policy after President Barack Obama urged support of the issue in his 2015 State of the Union address.

Healthy Tacoma statement on passage of Tacoma paid sick leave ordinance

January 27, 2015

People should not have to decide between staying home to get well and putting food on the table. It is common sense to make sure we all have the right to access paid sick days.

Tonight the Tacoma City Council passed a paid sick leave ordinance by a vote of 8-1. The ordinance improves on Mayor Strickland’s original proposal by covering all workers, including those in labor unions. “Removing the discriminatory language against workers who have a Collective Bargaining Agreement was a positive step to protect public health and families,” said Patty Rose of the Pierce County Labor Council.

However, it falls short by limiting workers to earning only 3 days of sick leave per year. That’s not enough to protect public health; many workers, and especially parents, will still be forced to choose between a paycheck and getting healthy. Council members had the opportunity to amend the proposed ordinance to allow workers to earn up to 5 paid sick days per year, but voted 6-3 to leave that portion of the ordinance unchanged.

Tacoma’s workers, business owners, faith leaders and others deserve credit for pushing the Council to consider this issue. We commend the leadership of Council members Ryan Mello, Anders Ibsen, and Victoria Woodards, who supported amendments to ensure every worker could earn up to 5 days of leave per year.

“Whether you’re caring for yourself, a child, or an aging parent, everyone gets sick, and everyone needs time to get better,” said Rose. “We look forward to working with both current and future city council members to shore up this policy.”

Final vote on Tacoma’s paid sick days ordinance tonight!

January 27, 2015

Paid-Sick-LeaveTonight is the final vote on Tacoma’s paid sick days ordinance! The meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. (Tacoma Municipal Building, First Floor, 747 Market Street Tacoma, WA 98402).

There’s nothing like a roomful of constituents to remind elected representatives exactly who they should be working – and voting – for. Come to meeting to show your support for a strong paid sick days ordinance that protects all of Tacoma’s workers!

RSVP HERE

Press Release: Community pushes back on Tacoma Mayor’s proposed sick leave ordinance

December 9, 2014

3 days is not enoughTACOMA, WA | A paid sick days ordinance introduced today by Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland is being criticized – by local workers, health professionals, business owners, faith leaders and others – for failing to include provisions that would ensure workers can actually stay home to get well, or care for a sick child or elderly parent.

An estimated 37,500 of Tacoma’s 94,000 jobs – about 40% of the city’s total workforce – do not provide paid sick leave. Childcare workers, restaurant staff and elderly caregivers are among those least likely to have paid sick leave. And many grocery and healthcare workers face restrictions on when they can use their sick time.

A local coalition of businesses, workers, and civic, labor and faith organizations called Healthy Tacoma has been working for months for an ordinance in Tacoma, like those in 17 other cities across the nation, that would ensure all workers can earn – and use – paid sick leave on the job.

But advocates, including one Tacoma City Councilmember, say Strickland’s proposal will do little to help prevent colds, flu bugs and food-borne illness from spreading in workplaces, schools and eldercare environments. They note three main problems with the Mayor’s proposal:

  • A mere 3 days of sick leave per year – meaning just one bout of the flu for a sick child would wipe out their parent’s paid sick leave. By comparison, private sector workers who have sick days get an average 8 days per year after 1 year of service.
  • No carryover of accrued leave from one year to the next – so each January, right in the middle of cold and flu season, any accrued paid sick leave disappears.
  • Treating union workers as second class citizens. Union workers would not get paid sick leave when everyone else does and, in some cases, would have to go years before they have the same rights as other Tacoma workers.
  • Allowing employers to reprimand or penalize workers for utilizing their sick leave – providing a powerful disincentive for people to actually stay home when sick, or caring for a loved one.

Loren Cohen, owner, MC Construction Consultants, Inc.: “As a dad of three children, owner of a local development company and board member on many local non-profit organizations, I know that one common characteristic of successful businesses and organizations is they each take care of their workers and families. The City is off to a good start in thinking about this issue, but I believe Tacoma can do better. I would never discipline an employee for taking time off to care for their children or themselves when sick, and I don’t think this policy should allow that either.”

Carol Opland, LPN: “As an LPN, I see everyday what happens when people put off getting the care they need for too long, that’s why we need a strong paid sick leave policy in Tacoma: one with first day access so people don’t have to wait until their conditions get critical.”

Pastor Gregory Christopher, Tacoma Ministerial Alliance: “We commend Mayor Marilyn Strickland for her decision to propose a paid sick leave ordinance for the City of Tacoma. We urge the Mayor and the Council to do the right thing. Pass a strong, comprehensive paid sick leave law that offers more than three days a year.”

Karen Williams, worker, Safeway: “I’m a working Mom at a grocery store in Tacoma. Passing a paid sick leave law in Tacoma would be great – but 3 days of leave just isn’t enough. When my child gets sick I wouldn’t be able to afford to stay home.”

Gordon Naccarato, Owner, Pacific Grill: “As owner of multiple business, including Pacific Grill in Tacoma I have seen first-hand how an illness impacts workers, especially those who depend on their income to care for themselves and their families. The Mayor’s proposal wouldn’t be enough to adequately protect workers. At Pacific Grill we treat our employees like our own family and we want to ensure that they can thrive, so we’re rolling out our own paid sick leave policy next year. Tacoma can and should do the same, for everyone who works in our city.

Ryan Mello, Tacoma City Councilmember: “This first draft is a good starting point, but it needs improvements. Workers should be able to earn at least 7 days a year to deal with their own personal illnesses, and children and families if necessary. And working people should never be disciplined for making the responsible choice to use their hard-earned sick leave for valid reasons. I look forward to working with my colleagues on Council to improve this draft so it really does improve the lives of working people.”

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Healthy Tacoma is a coalition of more than 30 groups representing communities of color, labor, small business, civic, and faith organizations working to pass a citywide ordinance on Paid Sick Days and Safe Time for Tacoma workers and their families. Learn more at HealthyTacoma.net.

Restaurant workers bring risk when sick on the job

November 12, 2014

Originally posted on US Food Safety:

by Doug Powell

In the absence of paid sick days and health insurance, many food service workers show up sick.

Sonia Cohen has worked in the fast food business for the last 10 years. Cohen said even missing one day of work hurts her family budget. And she’s not alone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 5 restaurant workers admits having reported to work while sick with diarrhea and vomiting, which are the two main symptoms of Norovirus.

Health inspectors and restaurant owners both watch for these symptoms.

“Always our inspections are a snapshot in time. We may walk in and someone may have a cold. That’s not a reportable symptom,” said Paula Cox, Health Educator with the Guilford County, North Carolina, Department of Public Health.

The North Carolina Food Code spells out specific illnesses and symptoms that restaurant employees cannot bring with them to work…

View original 106 more words

An interview with Tacoma City Councilperson Ryan Mello on paid sick days

October 29, 2014

What’s in store for paid sick days in Tacoma? Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and CEO of MomsRising.org, interviewed Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello to find out.

Kristin_Rowe-Finkbeiner

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and CEO of MomsRising.org

MomsRising: Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland has said she supports passing a paid sick leave bill this year. You’ve been leading on this issue for some time. What do you think about the details the Mayor has shared?

Ryan Mello, Tacoma City Councilperson: I’m glad Mayor Strickland understands that cities need to take the lead on issues like paid sick leave, but the policy details she is rumored to have shared with theWashington Retail Association won’t actually protect workers, families, or public health. The Tacoma City Council can’t just pass a showpiece to get this issue off our desks. We need a policy that helps all the people of Tacoma in a meaningful way.

MomsRising: Why have you made passing paid sick days a priority?

Ryan Mello: I waited tables right out of college to make ends meet. We didn’t have any sick leave, and I saw my coworkers coming to work sick all the time. Many of the people I worked with had kids at home, families depending on them – they had no choice but to come to work sick.

We should have policies in place so folks don’t have to make these untenable decisions about going to work sick in order to make rent, or being able to stay home to take care of themselves or their loved ones.

This is a public health issue as well. We should not be exposing the most vulnerable in health clinics or hospitals to sick workers. The people who handle our food in grocery stores or at the neighborhood sandwich shop should not be at work if they’re sick. They should be able to stay home and not lose a day’s wages.

MomsRising: How do you see paid sick days being particularly important to moms?

Ryan_Mello

Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello

Ryan Mello: Well, we’ve come a long way in making it so moms aren’t the only ones taking care of kids or older folks, but it’s still a fact that a lot of the time and energy spent caring for family members still rests on women. We need to give tools to moms so they can have careers and be bread-winners, and also take care of their kids.

They need access to paid sick leave so that when the school nurse calls, they can go get their child and bring them home, instead of that kid sitting there at school. And giving dads paid sick days makes it easier for them to take on those kinds of roles as well, and that’s good for families, I think.

MomsRising: So what is necessary in a paid sick leave policy to make sure working people have the tools to protect the health of themselves, their families, and the public?

Ryan Mello: Here’s what I’ve learned as I’ve talked with many workers over the past couple of years.

First, the number of paid days off people earn is important. We know the flu stays contagious for a week or more. Kids in daycare and school get sick a lot. People need access to enough time off that they aren’t forced to make those tough choices between health and family finances. The 3 days Mayor Strickland mentioned is simply not enough for the moms I’ve talked to. And we know from real life experience that in cities that have set 5, 7, or 9 days as the norm, businesses of all kinds and sizes are continuing to do just fine.

Secondly, I think it must apply to all workers. The Retail Association claims the Mayor is considering excluding union members and restaurant workers, but that’s just not acceptable. That would mean the nurses in hospitals and the clerks handling our food at grocery stores, who work for major corporations, would continue being pressured to come into work sick. To be honest, it dumbfounds me.

A third thing is that safe leave – for domestic violence or stalking situations, for example – needs to be included. Working your way through the court system can take a lot of time. And people should not have to lose wages because they’re fleeing from an abuser, or advocating for themselves in court.

MomsRising: What about the perspective of business owners?

Ryan Mello: I’ve talked to many business owners and folks from business associations. Many of them take real pride in offering earned paid sick days because they feel like it’s an important recruitment and retention tool. It’s one of the key ways that they signal to their employees that they care about them and their families. They want their employees to stay with them, because they know how expensive it is when employees turnover.

I also hear from most employers that of course people should have access to earned sick days; they don’t want sick people coming to work. They understand that the flu and many other diseases are contagious.

I think business owners want a policy that is straightforward and easy-to-understand. Most agree there needs to be some kind of enforcement mechanism so everyone is playing by the same rules, but that the focus shouldn’t be on punishing employers, but needs to stay on helping employers comply so that workers can stay home when they’re sick without losing pay.

In the end, that’s good for workers, customers, and the business, too.

Ryan Mello can be reached at ryan.mello@cityoftacoma.org or @RyanMelloTacoma.

Say it ain’t so, Mayor Strickland

October 24, 2014
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland

Where does Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland stand on paid sick days?

The corporate-funded Washington Retail Association announced details of a Tacoma paid sick leave ordinance yesterday which they claim is about to be introduced by Mayor Marilyn Strickland.

The proposal attributed to Mayor Strickland has corporate lobbyist fingerprints all over it, starting with a measly 3 days yearly maximum on sick leave use – and even fewer for restaurant workers.

Norovirus with those fries, anyone?

The plan also appears to completely exempt all union workers. That means many grocery store and hospital employees would continue to lose pay and risk losing their jobs for acting responsibly and staying home when sick.

We could go on – there’s lots not to like – but you get the idea.

The Healthy Tacoma coalition of community organizations and small business owners has advocated for adoption of a citywide paid sick leave ordinance for the past two years.

Without standards in place, four out of 10 U.S. workers don’t get a single day of paid sick leave. Even some workers who do earn paid leave are penalized if they call in sick or stay home with their sick child. Workers with high levels of public contact in restaurants and retail are especially unlikely to have access to paid sick leave – except in the 14 cities and 2 states that have enacted sick leave standards.

Public health and family economic security are at serious risk without strong sick leave laws. The CDC advises people to stay home when they have a fever or other symptoms of illness. Common viruses like the flu, Norovirus, and Enterovirus are contagious for a week or more, spread easily through the air and on surfaces like doorknobs – and are sometimes deadly.

And a report just out by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that mothers are more than 10 times more likely than fathers to have to miss work when a child is sick – and most often without pay.

The small business owners that have joined Healthy Tacoma know that healthy workers and customers with secure incomes help build prosperous businesses and thriving communities.

Job and business growth have been strong in the cities with the most extensive paid sick leave laws on the books, including San Francisco, which requires most employers to provide 9 days, and Seattle, which requires 5 to 9 days depending on the size of the business. In the past year, 6 cities in the state of New Jersey have passed sick leave laws, along with Eugene and San Diego.

The question is, where does Mayor Strickland stand – does she really support this watered-down proposal? Say it ain’t so, Mayor. Tell us you stand on the side of drafting and passing a strong sick leave law that will protect public health, build family incomes, and promote thriving businesses throughout our city. Healthy Tacoma stands ready to work with you.

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