by Sarah Mirk
Here's an alarming fact: Forty precent of Portland's private-sector workers get no paid sick leave. That's just the way things are in America, since we're the only developed, industrialized national where sick leave is not a right guaranteed by federal law.
Portland labor activists and unions rallied yesterday at city hall to pressure city council to pass an ordinance requiring employers in the city to provide paid sick leave to workers.
This year Seattle became the third city in the country to require sick leave—their new law mandates that business with over five employees provide one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours an employee works (that averages out to about
two six paid sick days a year). New York is considering a similar law.
Providing paid sick leave could potentially cost Portland employers, but some studies show that paying workers to take time off is better than having them come in to work contagious. Six out of seven employers surveyed after San Francisco implemented paid sick leave found no negative impact on their bottom line and saves on emergency healthcare costs, though a business group in New York predicts that paid sick leave would cost the city millions.
As it is, the status quo is not good: People going to work sick, getting other people sick, and not being able to prevent illness by staying in bed. Portland's city council could take up the proposal by the end of the year.