THE BLOG

A Race Between Philly and NYC on Paid Sick Leave?

10/13/2010 01:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As New York continues to waver on enacting overwhelmingly popular legislation that would guarantee working people the right to earn paid sick time, other cities are catching up fast.

Consider Philadelphia, where I had the opportunity to attend an event on earned paid sick leave yesterday. Spurred by advocates from PathWays PA, Women's Way and other members of the Pennsylvania-based Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces, policymakers in the City of Brotherly Love are considering their own legislation based on San Francisco's highly successful paid sick leave guarantee

In a recent study, I analyzed Philadelphia's situation and how a law similar to San Francisco's might work there. I found that 210,000 working people in Philadelphia - two out of every five private sector workers in the city - currently lack even a single paid day off to recuperate if they get sick or take care of an ill loved one. As in San Francisco, guaranteeing paid sick time to these workers would not negatively impact Philadelphia's job growth or business growth. The conclusions are broadly similar to the Drum Major Institute's findings regarding New York.

Yet Philly may be moving faster to address a problem that's pressing in both cities. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a hearing on paid sick time is expected in Philadelphia this fall. Meanwhile, in New York, the City Council has held multiple hearings, but it's unclear when the bill will come to the floor for a vote.

Councilman William Greenlee, co-sponsor of the Philadelphia bill, offered a sports analogy, insisting that Philadelphia would prove its policy leadership on paid sick time just as the Phillies would surely trounce the Yankees. Will New York stand for that?

In all seriousness, the national movement for paid sick days is growing, and New York risks falling behind cities like Philadelphia and Milwaukee, where the State Supreme Court now stands poised to rule on a paid sick ordinance approved by voters in 2008. As a result, not only will more than a million New Yorkers continue to make do without what most Americans say is a "basic workplace right," but the nation's largest city will miss an opportunity to do something of national importance, setting a powerful policy example for the country as a whole.