Sick-or-not mandate law coming to labor-states

The District of Columbia became the second jurisdiction in the country to mandate paid sick leave for almost everyone who works within the city. The city's "Sick & Safe" bill requires that up to seven days of annual paid leave be offered to workers at companies of 100 or more employees, up to five days for those at companies of 25 to 99 employees and up to three days for those at companies of 24 or fewer.

The bill incurred seven changes and three hours of debate before the D.C. Council unanimously passed it. San Francisco is the only other place in the country to mandate paid leave for workers, but D.C. became the first to provide leave to employees should they or their families fall victim to domestic violence.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, speaking before the vote, said he opposed the idea but would sign it if it passed. Speaking inside the new Target store to commemorate its opening March 5, Fenty said he had made it clear to the council that he "did not support moving forward" with the legislation. Nonetheless, Fenty said he did not oppose the idea so strongly that he would veto it.

"If it passes, it will become the rule of law and we will respect it as that," Fenty said.

The local director of SEIU Local 32BJ, a union representing 100,000 commercial office building employees -- including cleaning, security and maintenance workers -- from Virginia to New York, applauded the vote.

"The D.C. Council took a bold and important step today to ensure that more than 200,000 D.C. workers will get the paid sick and safe leave they deserve even if they must wait a year for it," said Jaime Contreras, Capitol Area Director of Local 32BJ.

Barbara Lang, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, who had strongly opposed the measure, said she was glad the new law included changes that reflected the difficulty for local businesses to compete in a dour economy. The law does not provide leave for bartenders and waiters, health care workers who participate in "premium pay" programs or workers who have been with an employer for fewer than 1,000 hours.

"This is just not the time to burden the business community and make us less competitive with Maryland and Virginia," said Lang.


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