Tacoma group pushes paid sick leave ordinance

May 30, 2013

A group in Tacoma is starting a campaign to get a paid sick leave ordinance passed. The supporters are taking a cue from the city of Seattle, which last year began mandating that businesses offer paid time off for illnesses. 

Healthy Tacoma is a coalition of nonprofits, labor unions, and religious groups pushing to get the sick-leave ordinance passed. They say about 40,000 workers in Tacoma can’t take a paid day off work when they or a family member is sick. Many of those people work in food service, increasing the chance that they’ll spread the illness to others. 

Sandy Restrepo with Healthy Tacoma says the problem is widespread.

"In Tacoma alone, 40 percent of workers have no form of paid sick time so they have to really choose between going to work sick or getting paid," Restrepo said. 

Restrepo says her group has won support from four of the nine Tacoma City Council members and that she expects it to be introduced soon. The measure would also allow workers to use their paid time off to deal with domestic violence situations.

She says they've structured the proposal to limit the impact on small businesses. 

"Small business, medium-to-large and then large businesses will accrue sick time differently," she said. "So that smaller businesses will be able to adapt and larger businesses, employees will accrue time at a faster rate."

The idea of mandating paid sick leave has gained momentum across the country. Portland passed a similar measure in March, and the city of New York followed earlier this month. An effort to require paid sick leave throughout Washington state stalled in the Legislature.