On September 12, the Seattle City Council adopted paid-sick-leave legislation, requiring all businesses with five or more employees to offer paid time off to their workers when they fall ill.
"The role of city government is protecting the most vulnerable in our city," said Council Member Tim Burgess, one of eight council members who approved the bill despite some reservations. Only council president Richard Conlin cast a dissenting vote.
On the dais, Conlin used inscrutable logic to explain his opposition: The bill "differentiates among workers... I don't see how this kind of inequality could be justified," he said, ostensibly referring to the fact that smaller businesses would provide only five sick-leave days a year to their employees, while larger companies would have to provide at least nine.
However, he didn't acknowledge that voting "no" was endorsing a greater form of inequality—maintaining the status quo for Seattle's 190,000 low-wage workers who lack these basic benefits.
When the measure takes effect in September 2012, the sick-leave ordinance will provide workers days off for personal illness, to care for a sick child or family member, or to deal with domestic-violence issues.
The city's Office for Civil Rights and the city auditor will issue a report on the law's impact on businesses one year after it takes effect.