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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.

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