Yet another amendment to the controversial paid-sick-leave bill will be introduced in City Council today to exclude "mom and pop" stores, but it's unclear whether the measure will be voted on before Council's break begins this month.
It's the latest amendment to the contentious legislation that would require Philadelphia employers to grant paid sick leave.
"Sometimes there are people who work in small businesses and [they] need benefits, but I understand it could have an effect on the [business'] bottom line," co-sponsor Bill Greenlee said of the amendment, which would exempt businesses with five or fewer employees. "We're here trying to accommodate and make everyone happy."
But that does little for Vera Witherspoon, who has worked for 14 years at a Center City wig shop without paid sick leave. She is the only employee besides the two owners.
"It doesn't make me feel better," Witherspoon said. "If I get sick, it's on me."
The original bill, introduced in March, would have allowed employees at businesses with 11 or more employees to earn up to nine paid sick days, and those at businesses with 10 or fewer workers to earn up to five days. But the number of days was altered to seven and four days, respectively, after a horde of small-business owners contacted Greenlee saying the bill was bad for business.
"Obviously we would like to have a bill that can help every single person in the city of Philadelphia" said Marianne Bellesorte, senior director of policy for PathWays PA, an advocacy group for women, children and families. "We know some small businesses already give sick days. I think this is a compromise on both sides."
Approximately 44 percent of workers in Philadelphia do not have paid sick days, and the numbers are higher for food-service and accommodation workers.
Under the legislation, employees could earn sick time after having been employed for 90 days. Businesses that already provide paid time off are not required to provide more.
Leaders from Philadelphia's lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender and HIV/AIDS communities gathered yesterday at the William Way Community Center in Center City to speak about the importance of earned sick days.
"It's just the right thing to do," said Nurit Shein, executive director of the Mazzoni Center. "It's a win-win situation, not just for the employees but also for the employers."
The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill when it was introduced, saying it may inhibit job growth.
"There's some people, members of [the Chamber of] Commerce, who believe government shouldn't mandate work orders, [but] I feel differently," said the bill's other co-sponsor, Darrell Clarke. "You would not have child-labor law. . . . At some point the government needs to step in."
Staff writer Hannah Ehlenfeldt contributed to this story