Across the country, support for paid sick days continues to grow. In 2013 alone, Portland, Ore., New York City and Jersey City, N.J., established common sense standards that will collectively benefit millions. Meanwhile, opponents continue trying to thwart paid sick days efforts through "preemption" — state-level legislation designed to prevent cities and counties from passing paid sick days standards and other workplace protections.
At the National Partnership, we have been closely following this dangerous trend. We recently released a comprehensive map that tracks paid sick days preemption efforts across the country. It is a disturbing look at the reach and power of a few well-organized and well-funded big business interests that are determined to block paid sick days and other standards that would help working people. Nowhere is this more apparent right now than in Pennsylvania.
Since 2011, there has been overwhelming support for establishing a paid sick days standard in Philadelphia. In fact, as a result of the tremendous work of a broad-based coalition of workers, advocates, businesses and lawmakers, the City Council has twice passed a proposal that would do just that. Unfortunately, the mayor vetoed it — despite 90 percent of the city’s voters saying they support the measure.
Now, Pennsylvania Representative Seth Grove is pushing House Bill 1807, which passed the state’s House Labor and Industry Committee on Monday. H.B. 1807 would ban residents and lawmakers in Philadelphia and other jurisdictions in the state from establishing paid sick days standards. In Philadelphia, this effectively ties the hands of the coalition and the City Council. As Councilmember Bill Greenlee said: H.B. 1807 is “unfair… not just to the city of Philadelphia, but to any municipality that thinks the issue is important to its locale.”
As I’ve written before, preemption is not a new or aboveboard tactic. It is becoming increasingly clear that efforts to pass them are part of a well-orchestrated power play by corporate interests that are out to stymie momentum for common sense public health and economic justice policies. On the paid sick days front, they have succeeded in nine states and, as our new map shows, have their sights set on several more.
The good news is that these preemption efforts have not — and will not — deter paid sick days campaigns. Instead, they strengthen workers’ and advocates’ commitment to expanding access to paid sick days — and they make the need for national standards, like the Healthy Families Act, that much stronger. Paid sick days proposals will continue to advance and preemption will continue to be exposed as underhanded and harmful.
In the meantime, you can help in Pennsylvania. If you live in the Keystone State, urge your state House member to vote against H.B. 1807 today. Tell her/him that city residents and lawmakers should decide if paid sick days standards are right for them. If you don’t live in Pennsylvania, share this post with someone who does.