Pittsburgh City Council passes mandatory paid sick days law | Keeping Up With the Council

Pittsburgh City Council passes mandatory paid sick days law

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A little more than three weeks after it was introduced, Pittsburgh City Council, this morning, passed the much-anticipated and contentious paid sick days legislation.

Councilor Corey O'Connor, the chief sponsor of the bill, said that "technical amendments" that are "very minor to the original bill" were made over the weekend.

"We felt we touched upon all concerns," O'Connor said following a preliminary vote on the legislation. "So we have a good balanced bill to move on today."

The bill passed with seven in favor. Councilor Daniel Lavelle voted against the measure; Councilor Darlene Harris abstained.

The bill mandates that employees within the city earn one hour of sick time for every 35 hours worked. At work places with 15 or more employees, earned time will be capped at 40 hours, or eight days. Employees at places with fewer than 15 workers can begin accruing sick time at the same rate, but they can only accrue 24 hours of unpaid sick time within the first year of the ordnance. After that, they can begin earning paid sick time — up to 24 hours, or three days. If an employer allows more paid sick time, that will trump the ordinance. All employees will be allowed to use the time for their own illnesses or to care for a sick child or family member. New employees will need to wait 90 to begin using their paid sick time. Seasonal workers will be exempt, and tipped workers will earn the state minimum wage when taking a sick day.

"We are really moving a national agenda forward," said Councilor Natalia Rudiak, who voted in favor of the bill. "With conversations we have here in this chamber, we're part of a national movement to change the social contract in this country."

Not everyone agreed. Harris abstained for two reasons she said.

"I believe we have moved this bill too fast by comparison to us taking three years to finalize and uphold a noise ordinance," Harris said. "Philly took several years to [pass sick days legislation]. They spent months of research for this issue. If approved today, the bill would’ve been introduced and passed in a little over three weeks. I have questions on it yet. Who will police this in the city to make sure this law is done right in every business in the city? I don’t know how far we’re going to go out against what 
The crowd in council chambers stood and applauded once the preliminary vote on paid sick days revealed there were enough votes for passage. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
  • Photo by Ashley Murray
  • The crowd in council chambers stood and applauded once the preliminary vote on paid sick days revealed there were enough votes for passage.
the laws of the city are."

(The noise ordinance unanimously passed today.) What Harris is referring to is whether the home rule charter of the city gives the local government the power to regulate private businesses. 

Councilor Lavelle's office could not be reached for comment regarding his vote against the measure.

Several people who spoke at last week's public hearing on the bill also spoke during public comment of today's meeting.

"I’m here on behalf of the thousands of businesses located in the this city that have no idea you’re going to be passing a mandate on private businesses today," said Melissa Bova of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. "They are being blindsided with a measure that was introduced three-and-half-weeks ago."

But supporters still hailed the decision as a win for public health in the city.

"We’ve testified about how this is really a public-health struggle," said Barney Oursler of Pittsburgh UNITED, one of the groups that lobbied for the ordinance. "Council is really putting Pittsburgh on the map now as a world-class city. Protection of workers sets the kind of standards that attracts the best businesses and workers. For those of you who will vote today, we thank you."

Council will resume again after a one-month summer break.




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