SEATTLE – Seattle is set to become the third U.S. city to require businesses to provide paid sick days for their workers after a City Council vote Monday that supporters said could provide momentum for establishing similar laws across the country.
The council voted 8-1 to mandate that all but the smallest companies – those with fewer than five workers – give at least five paid days off a year to employees who are sick, need to care for a sick family member, or who are victims of domestic abuse and need to take time off to assist law enforcement or attend court hearings. Businesses with more than 250 workers would have to provide nine days.
Mayor Mike McGinn is expected to sign the measure, putting Seattle in a league with San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut, where a state law takes effect in January. Milwaukee passed a sick-leave bill in 2008 that was later pre-empted by the state Legislature, and this year Philadelphia’s city council passed one which was vetoed by its mayor.
An estimated 145,000 to 190,000 workers in Seattle do not have access to paid sick days, according to the advocacy group Family Values at Work.
“Seattle residents shouldn’t have to choose between staying home sick and keeping their job,” McGinn said in a written statement.
Dozens of supporters attended the hearing, including grocery store cashier Natasha West-Baker, who said that without paid time off she had to work an 8-hour shift immediately after she underwent an MRI for severe back pain.
The proposal drew opposition from some in the business community who warned that it was bad policy even in the best of times, and possibly disastrous during a recession. George Allen, of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, said that in San Francisco some businesses had to forgo hiring or giving out bonuses because of that city’s law, which took effect in 2007.
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