PHILADELPHIA—Today, Councilmember Kendra Brooks introduced her third Public Health Emergency Leave bill, which would reinstate a requirement that businesses provide adequate paid sick leave for individuals reporting to work in-person. Under this legislation, workers would receive up to forty hours of paid leave, which would be available for use immediately to recover from COVID-19 or care for a sick family member. With new COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia averaging 1,111 per day and many hospitals reaching capacity as a result of the highly contagious omicron variant, the bill seeks to reduce the spread of COVID-19, keep businesses open safely, and ensure low-wage workers can afford to stay home when sick.
“We’re learning to live with COVID-19, and one of the main lessons we’ve learned is that paid sick leave keeps workers safe and keeps businesses open,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large). “After almost two years of the pandemic, I know we’re all eager to return to normal life. But when restaurants have workers spreading the virus to guests, grocery store clerks can’t afford to stay home and quarantine, and sanitation workers don’t have the paid leave they need to care for their sick kids—that’s not normal life; that’s bad public health policy. This bill merely gives Philadelphia’s working class the basic protections they are owed so that we can continue safely moving forward as a city.”
Previous iterations of this bill, both introduced by Brooks, were passed by City Council in September 2020 and then again in March 2021, but expired due to sunset provisions. Unlike previous versions, this bill would apply to all businesses with ten or more workers, and reduce the amount of paid sick leave time from two weeks to one week, in accordance with new COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Philadelphia labor unions and frontline workers, many of whom are seeing unprecedented rates of COVID-19 infections, echoed the clear need for strong paid sick leave legislation.
“We’ve seen the sacrifices that essential workers—including janitors, security officers, and airport workers—have made to keep our cities safe, secure and healthy throughout the pandemic,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU for Pennsylvania and Delaware, which represents over 22,000 property service workers. “With increasingly infectious variants like omicron, it is crucial that workers who are constantly exposed have the ability to take a day off when they or their family members are sick. This legislation is common sense policy that not only protects the frontline workers who keep us safe at great personal risk to their health, but also the public they come into contact with.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Cindy Bass (8th District), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large), Helen Gym (At-Large), Cherelle Parker (9th District), Mark Squilla (1st District), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).