Tacoma Citizens’ Forum on Earned Paid Sick Leave

Richard Smaby
The Council Hears Testimony
The Council Hears Testimony

At the Citizens’ Forum for September, 2014 Tacoma City Council Members heard from citizens of Tacoma about a proposal by Healthy Tacoma for earned paid sick leave for employees of businesses operating in Tacoma. There are 40,000 people working in Tacoma without paid sick leave and who have to come to work when sick to avoid losing pay for the time missed.

Approximately 60 people came out to show support for the proposal. Fifteen of them spoke in support to the council. A representative of the Freedom Foundation spoke against.

A Packed House
A Packed House

Cindy Richardson, Executive Officer, Unite Here Local 8 and Pierce County Central Labor Council Board Member:

Paid sick leave is an important public health issue. Generally hospitality workers do not get paid sick leave. Our union members are different. Our members don't have to work when they are sick. They don't have to handle customers' food when they are sick. Other workers in Tacoma deserve the same opportunity.

Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute:

Economic security is important to those vulnerable to loss of pay due for a sickness. Local governments all across the country are passing laws providing earned paid sick leave. Seattle passed a paid sick leave law in 2012 and Seattle businesses are thriving. We wish Congress would pass a paid sick leave law, but the move toward paid sick needs to start locally.

Reverend Doctor Arthur Banks, Pastor of the Eastside Baptist Church:

We need to talk to the individuals who have to leave a sick child to go to work. We want to promote healthy families. The individuals we are talking about experience big budget problems when they have to take leave without pay. What kind of city do we want Tacoma to be? What do we want for the people of our community?

Jeannie Mitchell, Chair of the Pierce County Democratic Party:

The Pierce County Democratic Party, after a thorough airing of the pros and cons, endorses earned paid sick leave. You can’t ask parents to choose between paying rent and caring for a sick child. Pierce County is blue collar; Tacoma is blue collar. We want to attract new people to Tacoma. We want it to be known that Tacoma supports all people.

Rev. Ann Adkinson, Pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Tacoma:

Faith leaders have a mandate to care for the most vulnerable members of our society. Vulnerable people have multiple challenges that concentrate on them. For people of color, women, and people who are not working full time, the system compounds the struggle.

Others who support paid sick leave:

Eight others spoke in favor of earned paid sick leave. One Tacoma resident pointed out that raising the price of a cup of coffee by a few cents would pay for the paid sick leave of employees of a coffee shop. Another saw the argument against paid sick leave as merely ideological opposition to government regulation in general. Another related how lucky she felt as a child that her mother had paid sick leave and could care for her, when she was ill. Another reported on her experience at her father’s nursing home, where obviously contagious care givers were spreading germs; they came to work sick because they did not have paid sick leave. A retired school teacher testified she was shocked to find that people didn't have sick leave; she had taken it for granted that all people who worked had what she had. Another person testified it is heart breaking to work with mothers who have to work and worry all day about a sick child who they can’t comfort and take care of.

Maxford Nelsen, Labor Policy Analyst of the Freedom Foundation:

The supporters of paid sick leave have good intentions, but good intentions don’t result in good public policy. A report from the Freedom Foundation, using information culled from various studies, shows that mandatory paid sick leave does not achieve what supporters intend. Workers come to work sick just as often. Employee turnover is not reduced. The studies tend to exaggerate support from businesses. Businesses experience reduced profits.

View the testimony on earned paid sick leave at the September 9 recording by the City of Tacoma. The paid sick leave testimony begins at 1:02 (1 hour and 2 minutes).