Nutter backs paid sick leave

     After twice vetoing paid sick leave bills, Mayor Michael Nutter says he's ready to sign. (NewsWorks file photo)

    After twice vetoing paid sick leave bills, Mayor Michael Nutter says he's ready to sign. (NewsWorks file photo)

    After twice vetoing bills requiring private employers in Philadelphia to give their workers paid sick leave, Mayor Nutter says he’s prepared to sign a bill with such a mandate.

    “I would like to sign a reasonable, rational, consensus-based paid sick leave bill for the city of Philadelphia,” Nutter said at a City Hall news conference after getting a report from the task force he formed in June to study the issue.

    The task force, heavily stocked with business owners and employer groups, endorsed the idea of a city ordinance which requires paid sick leave in private businesses with 15 or more employees.

    The two City Council bills Nutter vetoed would have required the benefit among employers with more than five workers.

    Councilman Bill Greenlee, who sponsored the sick leave bills, said he wants to talk more about the employee threshold below which businesses would be exempt from the requirement.

    “Every time you raise the threshold, you affect 15, 20 thousand workers, something like that as you go up in increments of five,” Greenlee said. “Those workers that you’re excluding as you go up in those increments are oftentimes the people that need it the most.”

    Nutter said that when he vetoed the past bills, he believed workers deserve paid sick leave, but was concerned about the economic impact of imposing a cost on Philadelphia businesses that neighboring counties don’t have to pay, particularly as the city was recovering from the recession.

    The task force report, while endorsing a paid sick leave requirement, said “we caution City leaders to balance the benefit to employees against the effects of mandating paid sick leave on the ability of local businesses to create and retain jobs and to attract and retain jobs.”

    Natalie Levkovich, executive director of the Health Federation of Philadelphia and a co-chair of the task force, said its research found no credible evidence that the economies of jurisdictions that have imposed sick leave requirements were adversely impacted.

    Currently 16 cities and three states (New York, Connecticut and California) have passed paid sick leave laws.

    Joe Grace, a spokesman for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, said his organization would study the report carefully, but that its members have concerns about the impact of the requirement on the competitiveness of businesses in the city.

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