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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…

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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.

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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?

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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.

Tacoma City Council, Can You Hear Us?

September 16, 2014

On September 9th the Healthy Tacoma Coalition attended Tacoma City Council’s Citizen’s Forum, with approximately 60 people in attendance! We came out strong with our ‘fans’ of paid sick days, and testimony in favor of passing an ordinance for Tacoma.

In the crowd were State Representative Laurie Jinkins, Pastor Banks of East Side Baptist Church, Pastor Christopher with Shiloh Baptist, Union Representatives from UFCW 367, Teamsters 117, and Unite Here Local 8, members from WACAN and WA Work & Family Coalition, Pierce County Young Democrats, and a number of outstanding community members!

The Coalition is continuing to gather letters of support from local businesses, non-profits, labor leaders, religious groups and community leaders in hopes of showing City Council that paid sick days is an important issue for everyone.

Thank you to all who attended and a huge thanks to all who gave testimony, we appreciate your hard work and dedication to this cause!

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Join Healthy Tacoma for City Council Citizens’ Forum on September 9th

September 4, 2014

Friends, Supporters, and Coalition Members:

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A member comments on the need for paid sick days in front of City Council, August 2014

On September 9th, Healthy Tacoma members are joining together at Citizen’s Forum for one last hurrah in support for paid sick days!

Some members of the City Council got the message and are ready to act to get 40,000 Tacoma residents paid sick days. However, other City Council members are still on the fence and need to hear from us now!

We need you now more than ever to come to City Hall to stand in solidarity with us.

Numerous cities have passed paid sick days ordinances (11 to be exact)! With your help, Tacoma will be next. We have built up to this moment and have collected nearly 2,000 postcards from Tacoma residents like you who want the City Council to pass this.

The meeting will start at 5:30 PM on the 1st Floor, Tacoma City Hall, 747 Market Street.

Look for Organizers Sandy and Amanda; they’ll both be wearing Healthy Tacoma buttons.

We look forward to seeing you there with us! Thanks so much for caring about our city.

Does Corporate America Finally Get What Working Parents Need?

June 30, 2014

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

At this week’s White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama and others made a moral case for changing the way we work. “Family leave, childcare, workplace flexibility, a decent wage – these are not frills, they are basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses. They should be part of our bottom line as a society,” the president remarked.

Yet there was also a strong business case for change, with vociferous and impassioned representation from our nation’s private sector. Bob Moritz, PwC’s US Chairman and Senior Partner, called on his peers to make significant changes, saying that “CEOs need to make this happen.” He reported that when PwC increased their flex options they saw higher productivity in return.  When they transitioned to unlimited sick leave, the actual number of days that employees took as sick days declined.  PwC offers back-up childcare and other family-friendly benefits because they have found that…

View original 525 more words

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