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Philadelphia Passes Paid Sick-Leave Law

Finally some good news for a change!

At a packed session of the Philadelphia City Council Thursday morning, council members voted 14-2 to approve a bill mandating that all companies with 10 or more employees in this city of 1.5 million allow their workers to earn up to five days’ paid sick leave for themselves or to care for a sick or injured person at home.

The bill, sponsored by Councilman Bill Greenlee, who introduced and won passage for it two times before in 2011 and 2013, only to have it vetoed by Mayor Michael Nutter, this year had the votes to override any veto. Recognizing this, Nutter this year announced ahead of the vote that he would sign it.

The mayor explained his change in position saying that in prior years local businesses were hurting from the recession, but claimed that they could afford it now, though most Philadelphians and Philadelphia businesses would question his assertion that the city’s economy has recovered. More likely, Nutter, who is not eligible to seek another term as mayor and has to be thinking about some other elected post, saw the writing on the wall and didn’t want to case yet another veto — this time in vain — against a popular bill, particularly among people who vote Democratic. (Polls show 70 percent of Philadelphians support a paid sick leave bill.)

Passage of the law makes Philadelphia the 17th city in the US to mandate paid sick leave, and it is the second largest city in the country after New York City to do so. (Other cities that have passed such a law include San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.)

Kathy Black, a long-time labor activist in Philadelphia and former head of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), was one of the leaders in the fight for paid sick leave in Philadelphia. She attributes this year’s resounding — and veto-proof — victory to the dogged efforts of labor activists and other grassroots organizations, to a “changing political climate” with 12 cities and two states recently passing such laws creating an “unstoppable momentum.” She also credits Philadelphia’s successful campaign to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention. “Democrats couldn’t really hold their convention in a city that was repeatedly defeating this bill,” she said with a sly smile.

After passage of the bill, supporters of the measure broke out in a rousing chant of “This is what democracy looks like!” as they filed out of the ornate chamber to celebrate their victory.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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