Hoping to follow the lead of Seattle and a handful of other cities across the nation, the Healthy Tacoma coalition launched a campaign to require that businesses in the city provide paid sick leave for their employees.
Comprising more than 30 organizations representing communities in Tacoma, the Paid Sick Days for Tacoma campaign is pushing for an ordinance that would allow workers to accrue about five to nine days of paid sick leave per year to tend to illness or injury, take care of sick family members or manage the impacts of domestic violence, known as “safe time.”
“For me, the political is personal,” said Sandy Restrepo, who is coordinating the campaign. “I’m a mother of a toddler. If he gets sick, it’s important for me to be there for him. If he has a fever, no day care is going to take him, so I have to stay home or my husband has to stay home.”
To create the proposal, the coalition looked at paid sick leave requirements in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco.
Like Seattle, accrual rates would vary based on the size of the business.
Currently, two in five Tacoma workers — about 40,000 — have no paid sick leave.
In these instances, people with low incomes are particularly vulnerable since a lack of paid sick leave forces them to choose between health and financial security, paid sick-leave proponents say.
They add that the benefits of paid sick days extend far beyond the workers taking them, noting the swine flu pandemic. They point to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public health recommendation to “just stay home,” when sick.
Seattle’s ordinance took effect September 2012, despite opposition from the Washington Restaurant Association and critics who said it would be too costly for struggling businesses.
Since then, bills on both sides of the aisle — either to restrict Seattle’s ordinance or expand it statewide — have been introduced in the Washington Legislature but aren’t expected to go anywhere.
Some states have banned city sick leave requirements altogether, leaving the power in the hands of employers.
Connecticut is the only state with mandated sick leave.
Healthy Tacoma currently has the support of four Tacoma City Council members and will continue working to build momentum before a final ordinance is proposed in the next few months, Restrepo said.
“We are very hopeful that we can get the support we need,” she said. “We also have a strong community of stakeholders that know that this is an important thing for Tacoma.”