Today Pittsburgh City Council introduced legislation that would require employers within city limits to offer paid sick time.
Nearly 20 organizations, including the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union, Women's Law Project, Planned Parenthood and the Clean Air Council, gathered at council chambers for a press conference about the new proposal.
"I think the quote of the day was 'We're Pittsburghers, we like french fries on our sandwiches, not the flu or other germs,'" Councilor Corey O'Connor told City Paper
on the phone. His office is championing the bill.
That sentiment is re-enforced by a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center public health study touted in the press release sent by supporters. According to UPMC researcher Supriya Kumar, one sick day for a person with the flu resulted in "more than a 25 percent decrease in influenza infections due to workplace transmission. A two-day policy resulted in a nearly 40 percent decrease."
The proposed policy for Pittsburgh employers would require them to grant employees one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. For workplaces with more than 15 employees, earned sick time would be capped at 72 hours; for workplaces with less than 15 employees, sick time would be capped at 40 hours.
"Paid sick days will help to protect the community of Pittsburgh by giving workers an opportunity to take care of themselves and their families and not bring the sickness that they have or they are exposed to into their work space," Barney Ourlser, executive director of Pittsburgh UNITED said. "We're arguing that what's good for the worker is also good for the community."
Oursler says the supporting organizations in Pittsburgh worked with a national group called A Better Balance to learn the best practices in other cities and states that have already set a precedent for paid sick time, including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
"The stuff that we pulled together, we gave it to [O'Connor], and he interacted with us a lot," Oursler says. "He wants to do something that's a model for everybody."
O'Connor says he's interested in legislation that improves small businesses and is good for workers.
"My dad ran a number of Roy Rogers [restaurants]," O'Connor says. "We're always looking out for workers, and the restaurant business is one of the toughest businesses."
Several supporters and O'Connor specifically spoke about how the legislation could particularly affect the lives of service workers.
O'Connor anticipates discussing the legislation with the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association within the next couple of weeks and then will hold a post-agenda hearing, he says. So far, he says, he has a lot of support from other council members.