Northeast Times

Henon has key vote on paid sick days bill

Holmes­burg’s Car­men Wal­lace works at a health-care cen­ter and needed some time off in Decem­ber be­cause she was bat­tling an ill­ness.

Luck­ily for the 46-year-old wo­man, her com­pany of­fers paid sick time.

“The flu epi­dem­ic was go­ing around at the time. I got paid for the three days I was out,” she said.

On Feb. 7, Wal­lace was at the dis­trict of­fice of City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on, call­ing on him to sup­port a bill that would provide paid sick time for tens of thou­sands of people who work in Phil­adelphia work­ers who do not have the be­ne­fit.

“Your sick time would ac­cu­mu­late, and when you got sick, you could use the time off,” she said.

Why did the Co­ali­tion for Healthy Fam­il­ies and Work­places tar­get Hen­on? 

Ac­cord­ing to Jas­mine Rivera, Ac­tion United’s south­east re­gion­al dir­ect­or, Hen­on is “on the fence” about sup­port­ing the meas­ure.

“It’s good for busi­ness, it’s good for work­ers and it’s good for pub­lic health,” she said.

Hen­on, (D-6th dist.), is, in­deed, on the fence.

“I’m con­cerned about busi­nesses, small busi­nesses in par­tic­u­lar, es­pe­cially in this eco­nomy,” he said. “But I cer­tainly un­der­stand that we don’t want people com­ing to work sick. I’ll wait for the hear­ings.”

Coun­cil­man Bill Green­lee (D-at large) is spon­sor­ing a bill that would re­quire com­pan­ies with 11 or more em­ploy­ees to provide up to sev­en paid sick days per year, de­pend­ing on the num­ber of hours worked by the in­di­vidu­al.

Com­pan­ies with 10 or few­er work­ers would be re­quired to provide up to four sick days.

A sim­il­ar bill passed in 2011 by a vote of 9-8. May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter ve­toed the meas­ure.

“We need twelve votes for a veto-proof ma­jor­ity,” Rivera said.

Some mem­bers of Con­gress are be­gin­ning to push for such a bill at the fed­er­al level, but pas­sage seems un­likely, for now. The state of Con­necti­c­ut has a law provid­ing paid sick time, as do the cit­ies of Seattle, San Fran­cisco and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Meas­ures are be­ing de­bated in Mary­land, Mas­sachu­setts, New York City and Port­land, Ore.

Most of the people who do not have paid sick time in Phil­adelphia work in the health care, hotel and res­taur­ant in­dus­tries.

The may­or be­lieved that the earli­er bill’s costs would have hurt ex­ist­ing busi­nesses and dis­cour­aged oth­ers from mov­ing to the city.

That’s the think­ing in New York, where May­or Mi­chael Bloomberg op­poses a sim­il­ar bill over­whelm­ingly favored by its City Coun­cil. Speak­er Christine Quinn, a lead­ing con­tender to suc­ceed the term-lim­ited Bloomberg in this year’s elec­tion, is re­fus­ing to call the bill up for a vote.

Many Phil­adelphia busi­nesses op­posed the ori­gin­al bill be­cause they feared healthy work­ers would use ac­cu­mu­lated sick time to plan va­ca­tions.

The 2011 elec­tion brought in six new Coun­cil mem­bers, and Green­lee and sup­port­ers of his bill hope to get the 12 votes needed to over­ride an ex­pec­ted second veto from Nut­ter.

There are sev­en co-spon­sors of the bill: Coun­cil Pres­id­ent Dar­rell Clarke, Coun­cil­wo­men Maria Quinones Sanc­hez, Mari­an Tasco and Cindy Bass and Coun­cil­men Wilson Goode Jr., Kenyatta John­son and Curtis Jones.

In ad­di­tion, Rivera said the co­ali­tion has re­ceived com­mit­ments of sup­port from Coun­cil­wo­men Blondell Reyn­olds Brown and Jan­nie Black­well.

The co­ali­tion ex­pects op­pos­i­tion from Coun­cil­men Bri­an O’Neill, Dav­id Oh, Bill Green and Mark Squilla.

Join­ing Hen­on on the fence, ac­cord­ing to the co­ali­tion, are Coun­cil­men Denny O’Bri­en and Jim Ken­ney.

Hen­on was elec­ted in 2011. His pre­de­cessor, Joan Kra­jew­ski, voted against the bill.

Ten mem­bers of the co­ali­tion stopped by Hen­on’s of­fice at 6730 Tor­res­dale Ave. in Ta­cony. They brought a bas­ket filled with flu-pre­ven­tion and cold-fight­ing rem­ed­ies: tis­sues, hand san­it­izer, band­ages, first aid cream, cough drops, green tea and oth­er items.

Hen­on was not at the of­fice as Coun­cil was in ses­sion. His staffers ac­cep­ted the bas­ket.

Co­ali­tion mem­bers stood in the street on Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue, hold­ing signs in Eng­lish and Span­ish that read, “Honk for Work­ers Rights” and “Honk for Paid Sick Time.”

As for O’Bri­en, an at-large Re­pub­lic­an from Mill­brook, he’ll be vot­ing on the bill for the first time, hav­ing been elec­ted in 2011. Last week, sup­port­ers of the bill de­livered more than 1,000 let­ters, post­cards and pe­ti­tions to Coun­cil mem­bers, with O’Bri­en, Hen­on and Squilla re­ceiv­ing the most.

The Great­er Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce is op­posed to the bill, but would fa­vor the city giv­ing tax in­cent­ives to busi­nesses that vol­un­tar­ily ad­opt the policy.

The co­ali­tion be­lieves the pub­lic is on its side.

“It really can make the dif­fer­ence between life and death. It only makes com­mon sense,” Rivera said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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