HARRISBURG - The Republican-dominated state Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would invalidate Philadelphia's new mandatory paid sick-leave law.
The bill, which passed by 37-12, would effectively preempt local governments from requiring companies to provide workers with paid sick days. The measure's supporters say it is necessary to have uniform rules across the state for businesses.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. John Eichelberger (R., Blair), called Philadelphia's sick-leave law "a mistake."
Critics of Eichelberger's bill, many from Philadelphia, said it would disproportionately hurt low-income employees, who often work through illness for fear of losing their jobs - and stomps on Philadelphia's right to decide what kind of business climate and practices it wants within its borders.
The bill "denies the City of Philadelphia the right to govern itself," said Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia, ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
He added, "It allows for a two-class system in our commonwealth. . . . This body stood once again to represent the needs and the issues of those with privilege, and not the needs and the issues of the masses."
The proposal now heads to the House, which is also GOP-controlled. House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said there is support for the concept.
"When you have government infringing on private sector rights, it's not a government that works," Miskin said.
Through spokesman Jeff Sheridan, Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, said he opposed the bill. But the governor stopped short of saying he would veto it.
Reacting to the vote, Mayor Nutter said through spokesman Mark McDonald that the sick-leave law he signed Feb. 12 was "consensus-driven" and a "modest step," and that preempting it would "upset the settled expectations of Philadelphia's workers and businesses." Nutter said he would keep imploring legislators to reject the preemption bill.
City Councilman William Greenlee, the bill's sponsor, who had pushed the issue for six years, said he agreed with some senators members who think the state should pass a uniform paid sick-leave bill, but added, "It's not going to happen any time soon, and I don't think Philadelphia workers should have to wait.
"It's disappointing, to say the least, that the Senate - and no disrespect, a lot of people who live nowhere close to Philadelphia - voted for this," he said. "Let us do what we have to do."
Under the law Nutter signed, businesses with 10 or more employees must provide at least an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Sponsors predicted it would benefit about 200,000 Philadelphians.
Workers would be able to use the accrued sick time either for their own illnesses or those of family members, or to seek support in dealing with domestic violence or sexual assault.
Employees not covered include independent contractors, seasonal workers or those hired for fewer than six months, adjunct professors, interns, government employees, and workers covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Businesses that already provide sick pay on par with or exceeding the law's requirements would not need to change their policies. Employers that violate the ordinance would be subject to fines, penalties, and restitution.
Eichelberger said allowing municipalities to create their own laws on this issue would create an uneven - and likely unfair - playing field for businesses and workers.
The issue, he and other supporters argued, should be left to the state or federal governments. He said Philadelphia had overstepped its bounds.
"The fact that Philadelphia went ahead and pushed this through . . . was a mistake," he said.