Tacoma City Council Hears Community Input on Paid Sick Days

Richard Smaby
Council member Joe Lonergan, Deputy Mayor Marty Campbell, Council members Lauren Walker, Ryan Mello, Anders Ibsen, and Robert Thoms
Council member Joe Lonergan, Deputy Mayor Marty Campbell, Council members Lauren Walker, Ryan Mello, Anders Ibsen, and Robert Thoms

On Tuesday, June 11, as a part of the regularly held Citizens’ Forum, the Tacoma City Council heard input from citizens on a proposal for mandating that businesses in Tacoma offer paid sick days to their employees. An umbrella organization, Healthy Tacoma, comprising more than 30 organizations representing communities in Tacoma, is promoting the proposal. The proposal is similar to those that have been put in place in San Francisco and Seattle. The council will go through a number of steps studying the issue and formulating an ordinance beginning with consideration by its standing Economic Development Committee. The proposal is controversial. This article is a brief introduction to the issues and suggests background reading for an informed debate.

What Healthy Tacoma proposes is that employees in companies with fewer than 10 employees  accrue 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours (5 days) in a year (40 hour cap). Employees in companies with 10 or more employees accrue 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 72 hours (9 days) in a year (72 hour cap). And employers with over 250 employees that opt to provide sick leave as part of a flexible leave bank, such as paid time off for both sick leave and vacation, must provide 1 hour for every 15 hours worked up to 108 hours (13.5 days) per year (108 hour cap). Other details of their proposal can be found on the Healthy Tacoma website.

The testimony at Tuesday’s meeting included the following points. Many employees face being fired or penalized, if they can’t come to work because of an illness they have or their children caught, who need their care. Employees in food service should not come to work sick, because it could spread their sickness to co-workers and customers. A large percentage of children in the Tacoma schools have parents who don't have paid sick days and the kids come to school sick. It is important to level the playing field, so that businesses that currently offer paid sick days or businesses that want to do so are not at a disadvantage compared to businesses that save on expenses by not offering paid sick days.

There will be many claims and counter claims in the ensuing weeks, as interest groups promote their views. The Pierce Progressive will follow the deliberations of the council and help its readers inform themselves. One valuable report is from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. They have published a study of the effects of the San Francisco ordinance. It is a serious study that breaks the issues down into satisfying detail for the reader who wants to put the facts together to form an independent opinion.

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