Thursday, June 9, 2011

Campaign for Paid Sick Days Launched in Denver!

Dozens of Denver residents gathered earlier this month to announce the launch of a November 2011 city municipal ballot initiative campaign to protect public health by ensuring paid sick days for all workers today, just before submitting ballot language to City Council staff and the Denver City Attorney. Nearly forty percent of Denver workers do not have access to paid sick days.

The noon gathering attracted the attention of hundreds of lunchtime customers of the area’s fast food restaurants who were handed cards explaining that most restaurants do not offer paid sick days to their employees –meaning many of those workers have no choice but to go to work sick. Seventy-two percent of Denver food service workers do not have paid sick days – and 80% of restaurant workers nationally report going to work while suffering from vomiting or diarrhea rather than miss a day’s pay or face termination. Nation’s Restaurant News reported the Centers for Disease Control found that 41% of all stomach “flu” cases stem from food service establishments.

“We exchange cash with you, make your latte, hand you your pastry and yes, we sneeze,” said Laura Baker, a barista at a popular national coffee shop. “So if an employee had to come to work with the flu because she couldn’t afford to miss work, you might be walking out of the store with your double latte and the flu.”

Research shows that offering paid sick days is good for business, particularly in terms of increased productivity, workforce stability and workplace health. “We offer paid sick days to our employees because it’s a good business decision,” said Jim Bryan-Kanda, general manager of Trout’s Fly Fishing. “Our customers and other employees aren’t exposed to illness and our workplace is much more productive. It’s a win-win all the way around.”

“Almost 70% of Denver voters favor laws that protect public health by guaranteeing workers a basic standard of paid sick days in a recent poll,” said Erin Bennett, Colorado Director of 9to5 Association of Working Women. “Paid sick day policies are good for public health, for families, for workers and for businesses, too.”

Similar measures have passed in Milwaukee by 69% and San Francisco by 61% after proponents made the case that feverish and contagious workers in restaurant, childcare, and bank teller positions are a public health hazard. A recent detailed study of 59,000 businesspeople in San Francisco evaluating the five-year old paid sick days law there found that six in seven employers there say that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability or businesses growth and nearly 70% of employers surveyed support the law.

The Campaign for a Health Denver – a coalition of more than 40 community organizations, labor groups, faith leaders and organizations, public health groups, elected officials and businesses seeks to pass a Denver ballot initiative to protect public health by guaranteeing a basic standard of paid sick days for employees in all Denver workplaces.

Find out more about the Campaign for a Healthy Denver at their website and on Facebook.

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