On March 13, 2013, the Portland City Council unanimously adopted the ordinance that provides Protected Sick Leave to all employees, starting in January 2014. The adopted Code is here. The standards require all businesses to provide Protected Sick Leave for employees who work more than 240 hours in a calendar year within the city of Portland. Businesses with 6 or more employees will have to provide up to 40 hours of paid Sick Leave annually, earned at one hour of Sick Time per thirty hours worked. Smaller businesses will be required to allow employees to earn and take up to 40 hours a year of unpaid leave without fear of being fired for missing work, due to personal health care needs, safety from domestic violence, or caring for a sick child. The ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2014. Information on the process leading to adoption of the Ordinance is here.
My comments when voting for the Ordinance:
This is an historic moment for human rights in the United States of America. This is about public health and well being, the health of workers, their families and consequently the health of our community.
I thank the members of the Everybody Benefits Portland coalition - led by Andrea Paluso, Sharon Bernstein, Lisa Frack and other staff from Family Forward Oregon. And thanks to coalition members:
- UFCW Local 555, led by Jeff Anderson
- Main Street Alliance, led by Lee Mercer and Jim Houser
- VOIS Business Alliance, led by Tony Fuentes
- Oregon Working Families Party, led by Steve Hughes
- Working America, led by Amy Herzfeld and Tara Murphy
- Causa, led by Francisco Lopez
- Center for Intercultural Organizing - led by Kayse Jama
- APANO - led by Joseph Santos-Lyons
- ONA - led by Sarah Baessler and Jenn Baker
- AFSCME - led by Joe Baessler and Eva Rippeteau
There are many others who joined in this grassroots campaign. Thank you to every one.
Supporters after the vote. Chief architect and craftsman of the ordinance,
my Chief of Staff Tom Bizeau, is out of the limelight on the far right
Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do what you believe in your heart is right, because you will be criticized anyway."
I believe in my heart that this is right. It will provide people and businesses with a means to maintain their health, which means satisfaction in the job and consequently productivity, which means thriving, sustainable businesses.
People matter. Jobs matter.
There will be costs to businesses, and there are other ways that the Council will support businesses in the coming months. This Code was crafted as simply as possible, to minimize the administrative burden on businesses. Thanks to Bernie Bottomly of the Portland Business Alliance, and Heather Hoell of Venture Portland who along with others participated in the Task Force process which improved the Code details after the hearing on January 31. Thanks to Commissioner Dan Saltzman who proposed the Task Force process and co-led it with me. The standards adopted today are better because of that process.
Real change does not come without sacrifice.
The stories that I have heard from the workers who have had to come to work sick or be fired, or not be able to make the rent, or not be able to care for a child or a loved one, made me understand the scope of the problem that we are trying to solve. These people now have names that I know, since many Portlanders both for and against the ordinance have participated in the public review.
Many businesses here in Portland already have paid sick leave benefits. Sixty percent of all employees receive some paid leave. These are the true pioneers of this regulation because they provided it without government having to ask. Now, we need to take care of the other 40% who need protection and pay when they need to stay home due to illness.
We have worked hard to accommodate the needs of businesses, especially the smaller ones. I believe the true cost of this benefit will be a minimal expense in comparison to all the other expenses that a business is confronted with. And it comes with responsibilities. Employees work for money and job security, the Employer needs good workers who know the job and can be good long term workers because it saves them money as well. We are all in this together. We need to care for each other, and this regulation seeks to do that.
I am hopeful that the State will pass as good or better requirements state-wide as we are passing here today. I am already lobbying to pass HB 3390 and SB 801. As Senator Steiner Hayward said when I visited Salem on Friday, "It's not fair that employees in Portland should have a benefit that employees in Medford don't have." The more workers covered by paid sick leave, the better. I hope this will become a national standard.
I thank all my colleagues who recognize how important it is to Portland, to the State and to the people that are in real need of protection. I thank all those legislators in the County and at the state who have supported and continue to strive for broad and lasting regulations outside the City of Portland.
Our President, Barack Obama, said in his State of the Union speech this year:
"You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time - not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom."
As an elected official, I make decisions based on facts and broad public input, seeking the long term public good for the whole city, with shared benefits and responsibilities for all Portlanders present and future.
Thank you for engaging in making this decision with your Council. I am happy to vote Aye.