Portland City Council aims to mandate paid sick days by year’s end


Backed by members of his group, Francisco López of the Latino human rights group Causa tells Portland City Council Oct. 31 that 40,000 minority workers in Portland don't have a single paid sick day a year.

A campaign to require paid sick leave for all Portland workers is picking up speed as the current City Council heads into its last few months.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced at an Oct. 27 mayoral candidates forum that she’s working with other City Council members to pass a paid sick days ordinance by the end of the year. The candidates forum was hosted by the Latino civil rights organization Causa, which is part of Everybody Benefits — a coalition of unions and community groups that’s pressing for a paid sick leave ordinance. San Francisco, Seattle, and Connecticut have passed laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave have passed, and activists say San Francisco’s ordinance is the model to strive for: Workers there accrue an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work, which they use when they or a family member are sick — up to five days a year at workplaces with fewer than 10 employees, and nine days a year at larger workplaces.

[pullquote]Everybody needs coverage. This is a public health issue, and an economic security issue.” — Andrea Paluso, coordinator of Everybody Benefits coalition[/pullquote]Exact terms of the Portland ordinance are still being worked out. Fritz and her staff — along with staff from the offices of city commissioners Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman — met three times in early October to discuss details with a stakeholder group convened by Andrea Paluso, coordinator of the Everybody Benefits coalition. Stakeholders included business owners as well as staff from five labor organizations: Oregon AFL-CIO, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, Service Employees Local 503, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, and Oregon Nurses Association. Now Fritz’ office is working with the city attorney to draft an ordinance.

Paluso said the coalition is pushing for every worker to be covered regardless of the size of the employer.

“This is a labor standard,” Paluso said. “Just like we don’t have a different minimum wage for small employers, we shouldn’t say small employers don’t have to give their employees access to sick days.”

“Everybody needs coverage. This is a public health issue, and an economic security issue.”

On Oct. 31, Causa members visited City Hall. During the public comment session of the City Council meeting, Causa executive director Francisco López thanked Fritz and urged members of City Council to pass an ordinance. He said Latino workers in restaurants and elsewhere disproportionately lack paid sick days. An estimated 40 percent of Portland workers — and 57 percent of Latinos — don’t have paid sick days, according to research by Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

“Portland has great restaurants,” Lopez said. “When friends come to Portland, they always compliment the great quality of food. But there is something my friends don’t know about Portland, that many waiters, waitresses, cooks, busboys … come to work sick because they do not get paid for sick days, because they are afraid of losing their job, and because losing a day of work means they will not have enough money to pay for rent.”

“I think [Amanda Fritz] is motivated to try to get this done by the end of the year,” Paluso told the Labor Press. “We shouldn’t make the working people of Portland wait any longer.”


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