SAGE Celebrates Paid Sick Leave Victory

March 30, 2012 -- Partnership for Working Families

Paid Sick Leave Law Goes Into Effect in 2012

September 2012 will mark the first time an estimated 160,000 employees in Seattle will enjoy paid sick leave benefits.  Only Washington, DC and San Francisco have similar laws protecting workers when they are sick.

In September 2011, The Seattle City Council in an almost unanimous vote passed a policy mandating tiered Paid Sick Leave benefits.  Earning national attention and representing a victory for the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce, the win was a hard fought victory for economic justice and public health advocates.

Public Health and Labor Join Powerful Coalition

“We built on our collective campaign experience and organizational relationships – forged through previous campaigns – to make this the most effective and powerful coalition Seattle has seen in a decade,” reflected Elena Dix, Lead Organizer with Puget Sound Sage.

Supporters of the measure formed a powerful coalition representing a broad and diverse partnership of business, civic, community and labor groups, which included over 70 organizations and 30 small businesses.  The coalition leadership included Puget Sound Sage and its board member UFCW Local 21.

The final 8-1 vote in an election year demonstrated the strength of the coalition and the value of sustaining public attention to the public health benefits of the measure.  Despite numerous attempts by big businesses opponents to stall, study or weaken the ordinance, the Coalition effectively fought back to ensure the policy extended reasonable protections to low-wage workers.  Key to the victory was the strategic collaboration with small businesses, led by Washington Community Action Network’s Main Street Alliance of WA.

According to Tasha West Baker, a Safeway worker and UFCW Local 21 member, the campaign was powerful because different interests stood together.  “It wasn’t just workers who were talking about it, it was business people, it was community organizations, it was labor… together you get this awareness that is everywhere.”

City Council and Mayor Demonstrate Leadership

“The real champions here are our city council leaders who put the values of our community ahead of the political pressure from big businesses on this issue,” said David West, executive director of SAGE.  “We have an ongoing relationship with our local council and we celebrate leadership and commitment to upholding the dignity of working families.”

In his official statement, Mayor Mike McGinn lauded the measure because it “levels the playing field in Seattle by supporting public health and economic justice. Seattle residents shouldn’t have to choose between staying home sick and keeping their job.”

To learn more about the campaign and the tiered policy measure and benefits, contact elana@pugetsoundsage.org