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Great victory today on earned sick time!
At a time when working people are being kicked around in Harrisburg and Washington, Philadelphia’s City Council, today, stood against the tide and passed the earned sick time legislation.
This legislation is a great victory for working people, as it enables workers to earn time that they can use when illness keeps them out of work. And like most legislation that helps working people, this bill helps the entire community as well. It is in all of our interest for people who have a cold, flu, or other communicable disease, to stay home rather than spread the disease to the rest of us. And that is especially important for people who work in restaurants and child care providers.
The bill now comes before Mayor Nutter whose administration has qualms about it. So now we need to call Mayor Nutter at 215-686-2181, and tell him how important it is to sign this legislation.
In the newspapers, the chief opponents of the bill were said to small business people. But, a minor change in the bill, which exempted small “mom and pop” businesses from the law, satisfied most small business people. And, while members of the coalition were not entirely happy with this exemption, we know that a lot of small businesses—like my own operation, Penn ACTION—actually do treat our employees like members of a family and are always willing to be flexible when our employees are sick.
However, in Council, it was not small business people, whose concerns one can understand even if one doesn't agree with them, but the Chamber of Commerce, Comcast, PECO, and Wal-Mart that stood against the bill. And--here is the kicker--Comcast, PECO, and Wal-Mart all provide earned sick time far in excess of the bill, and certainly have the margins that would enable them keep providing it to their employees. So why did they oppose the legislation? My sense is that two things motivated them.
First, while some of these companies have sick days, they also want to be free from rules that prohibit them from punishing workers who take those sick days as, for example, Wal-Mart does. In other words, these companies oppose any efforts to put into law any legal requirement that their employees be treated with respect and fairness. They don’t want to give up the tyranny that too often characterizes labor relations in most large, non-union companies.
And second, there was the matter of ideology. When working people are suffering from attacks in Harrisburg and Washington in America, they are fighting back and winning in Philadelphia. They didn’t want us to win today, even if this victory meant nothing to their own business, because they knew that victories for working people build on victories. And, no victory in the on-going struggle between working people and large corporations is acceptable to them.
So now Mayor Nutter finds himself right in the middle of this struggle. And it really is a defining moment for the Mayor. Mayor Nutter has problems with organized labor, which he can blame Philadelphia’s economic situation. Signing this law, however, will have no impact on the City budget and, scare stories aside, will have no impact on economic growth in the city. (Those scare stories are the same ones told when child labor laws were enacted, when the minimum wage was enacted, and every time it is raised. They weren’t true in the past and they aren’t true now.)
So this bill offers the Mayor a clear choice, between standing with the corporations that are trying to undermine working people and standing with working people who are fighting back.
It is a crucial moment for Mayor Nutter, one that will, more than anything else he does as Mayor, defines his place in the most central struggle of our time. Helping us enact this bill will put Philadelphia in the forefront of a nationwide revival of a progressive politics that supports working people.