Legislation that would allow all Seattle employees to accrue mandatory paid sick leave was passed by the Seattle City Council's Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee this afternoon. Currently, 190,000 Seattle employees—or roughly 40 percent of the city's workforce—don't have access to paid time off.
Council members Nick Licata, Jean Godden, Sally Clark, Mike O’Brien voted unanimously in favor of the legislation (Council President Richard Conlin abstained). But don't expect easy passage of the bill at the September 12th full council meeting. Even though council members have made concessions for business owners—including exempting micro businesses (with fewer than five employees), excluding work study employees, and ensuring that paid time off can't be used for 180 days after an employee's start date—both Conlin and Clark criticized the legislation before today's vote, and a few other council members are rumored to be waffling.
"I know it's not wildly popular to support big business..." began Clark, who's up for re-election this November, before criticizing the number of paid time off days awarded in the legislation and parroting business owners' specious arguments about how restaurant employees can swap shifts if they're sick (but employees outside the restaurant industry cannot).
"There are issues of concern that are outstanding," Conlin simply said.
Meanwhile, council member Bruce Harrell's challenger, Brad Meacham, released a statement today accusing Harrell of opposing the legislation in a private endorsement meeting with the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
“Release your questionnaire answer, Bruce,” Meacham said in the statement. “The public deserves to know the truth about whether you have been saying one thing to them about paid sick days and the opposite to the powerful downtown interests backing your campaign.” Harrell has publicly supported paid sick leave in the past but may, like Clark and Conlin, be an waffling asshat. I'll update when I hear back from his people.
UPDATE: Here's Harrell's response: "As an attorney who has spent decades fighting to protect the rights of employees, it stands to no surprise that I support a sick leave policy and our current effort to address the health challenges that sick employees face when they are unable to come to work. I have stated my position at every forum and whenever asked. At the same time, I want the input and vetting process with small business owners to occur such that our policies do not place small businesses at risk or encourage them to move to other cities. I am not convinced this has occurred yet and I am confident we will achieve the policy objectives regarding the health of employees and the needs of small businesses when the legislation is passed.”