CITY COUNCIL yesterday joined a growing list of cities across the country that have passed legislation requiring employers to provide their workers with paid sick leave.
The Philadelphia bill passed 14-2 and, a few hours later, was signed by Mayor Nutter, who had vetoed two earlier versions.
"It feels good," said Councilman William Greenlee, who sponsored the bill. "I think the real winners here are the workers of Philadelphia."
Councilman Bobby Henon commended Greenlee before the final vote for his "dogged persistence," which led to a rousing round of applause from many in attendance.
Nutter compared the sick-leave bill to his own smoking-ban bill in terms of why it took so long.
"One of the big changes certainly was . . . when he went from five to 10 [employees]," Nutter said. "That was certainly significant."
The law will only apply to employers with 10 or more employees. Employees will accrue one hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked, for a maximum of five days a year.
Marianne Bellesorte, senior director of policy and public relations at PathWays PA, who lobbied for the bill, said the law, "will help 40 percent of workers who currently have no access to paid sick leave."
Others in support of the paid sick-leave bill explained its potential impact on them during the council meeting.
"It's an outstanding day," said Marvin Robinson, who testified before Council on behalf of the bill. "This is what democracy is all about. In my career [when I got sick] I had to decide between losing a day's pay or working sick. Starting tomorrow . . . that changes."
The bill actually will go into effect 90 days after Nutter signed it.
Not everyone saw the bill as a good thing for the city. Councilmen David Oh and Brian O'Neill voted against it.
"It's a wonderful idea that works in many places, but not necessarily here," Oh said. "We need more entry-level jobs. This bill does not create jobs."
Oh, who operated his law firm in the city, explained the impact on small businesses.
"It results in a business with eight people not wanting 10 people," Oh said. "On our business corridors, we have . . . empty buildings, unoccupied stores that have been unoccupied for a long time, and business owners that are very, very much struggling to keep things running."
Bellesorte and Greenlee disagree with Oh.
"This is the 17th city that passed a sick-leave bill," Bellesorte said. "It has worked in every city. Studies show it's good for business."
Greenlee said he worked on the bill for more than six years.
"The only good thing that came from the delay is the mounting evidence that this is not a problem," Greenlee said. "In many cities and states that passed it, the opponents became supporters."