In Ernest Luning’s “Hancock pledges: ‘Better, faster and stronger’ city” in the Aug. 19 issue of The Colorado Statesman, he reported that Mayor Michael Hancock stated his opposition to Initiative 300 to provide paid sick days to workers in the city of Denver, saying while he appreciates what proponents are doing to try to help employees, he believes now is the wrong time for such a public policy.
We would argue that now is exactly the right time for a paid sick and safe time initiative. Providing paid sick leave makes sense for businesses in a down economy because the resulting increase in productivity and reduced turnover saves nearly $600 a year for each full-time worker with paid sick time. When sick workers are able to stay home, the spread of disease slows and workplaces are both healthier and more productive. Plus, workers recover faster from illness and obtain timely medical care — enabling them to get back to work sooner.
Crystal, a mother of two elementary school-aged children, has no paid sick days at her Denver office job. She knows she really shouldn’t go to work sick, but she does anyway because her family is living paycheck to paycheck and she simply cannot afford to miss a day’s pay and still pay the rent and keep food on the table for her kids. On the days she goes to work sick, she exposes her co-workers to illness and her work is substandard but she really has no other choice.
Under the measure, employees would be able to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to about 9 days annually for full-time workers and pro-rated for part-time workers. Small business with fewer than 10 employees may cap paid days off to five days per year.
So contrary to what Denver Downtown Partnership CEO Tami Door reportedly told Mr. Luning, the proposed initiative DOES provide flexibility for small businesses so they are not unfairly burdened. All of us supporting this initiative are every bit as interested in an economically vibrant Denver as those quoted as opposing it.
In fact, economists say job retention policies like paid sick days help reduce unemployment and strengthen the economy. In San Francisco — just rated one of the top cities in the world to do business — more than 70 percent of businesses support their local paid sick days law and six in seven report no negative effect on profitability in the four years since it has been law. Not only are workers healthier and more productive, they don’t expose customers, clients and patients to illness.
Furthermore, it’s important to have a healthy community to fuel a healthy economy in Denver. There are 108,000 workers in Denver without paid sick days. All residents are put at risk when lower-wage workers in restaurants, childcare centers and medical caregiving are forced to go to work sick because they are unable to pay their bills at the end of the month if they miss a day’s pay.
We are pleased that the Mayor supports the concept of paid sick and safe leave because employees like Crystal want to do right by their families and do a great job at work. We sincerely hope he will reconsider his position on Initiative 300 because ensuring a healthy Denver is the first step in building a “better, faster and stronger” Denver.
Senator Irene Aguilar
Senate District 32
Representative Beth McCann
House District 8