A senior adviser to President Obama on Tuesday called the effort to block Philadelphia's paid sick-leave law "dreadful" and accused Republicans in Harrisburg of having a "knee-jerk reaction."
"Really look at the evidence," Valerie Jarrett said, directing her comment to state legislators who backed a bill to preempt the city's sick-leave law. "I think, frankly, Pennsylvania should follow Philadelphia's lead."
Jarrett's visit here, which included a forum with Mayor Nutter, was part of a national tour to cities with paid sick-leave laws on the books. Officials have hoped that by highlighting those municipalities, others will follow suit.
Obama has pushed for a national law requiring employers to offer paid sick leave, but the measure has little chance of passing through the GOP-controlled Congress. Opponents have said it would impose costly requirements on businesses.
Philadelphia's law, which requires businesses with 10 or more employees to provide at least an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, takes effect next month.
Last week the Republican-dominated state Senate passed legislation that would effectively preempt local governments from having mandatory sick-leave laws. The bill must still be approved by the state House, which is also GOP-controlled. Through spokesman Jeff Sheridan, Gov. Wolf has said he opposed the bill but stopped short of saying he would veto it.
Sen. John Eichelberger (R., Blair), the bill's sponsor, defended the legislation Tuesday, saying having different sick-leave laws across the state would be bad for business.
"It's more important to think globally on an issue like this, and that's what we're trying to do," he said.
Jarrett, who was joined in Philadelphia by Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu, said the city has been a leader on the issue.
"We want the rest of the country to learn what you've learned and discovered, which is how important this issue is to your residents," she said.
Nutter twice vetoed sick-leave legislation but has said he did so because the city was still recovering from the recession, not because he opposed the measure. On Tuesday, he said change naturally leads to resistance, but he listed other policies that seemed foreign when first proposed, such as banning smoking in bars.
"Philadelphians love change," he said sarcastically. "They praise change. And then they strangle the hell out of you. So everything is new and different at some point in time. Five years from now, people will wonder, 'What were we fighting for?' "