State Legislators Want to Bigfoot Philly’s New Sick Leave Ordinance

Councilman Greenlee: "If it passes in the form it's in, it would negate Philadelphia's law."

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Pennsylvania legislators met yesterday in Harrisburg to hone a bipartisan amendment that would vitiate the seven-plus years of work that went into Philadelphia’s sick leave ordinance by making it retroactive to January 1st of this year.

SB333, proposed by state Sen. John Eichelberger and state Sen. Lisa Boscola, “would provide for clear state preemption of local mandated leave ordinances.” Such ordinances, a memo from the legislators suggests, represent overreach by local governments, which should apparently be confined to a certain “sphere of power” that doesn’t obstruct the uniform application of public policy.

The memo cites Philadelphia’s 56-hour-per-year ordinance specifically, noting:

Not all businesses are the same and a blanket policy that does not recognize these differences only hurts small businesses struggling in this current economy. Clearly, the state and federal governments are the appropriate policy makers when labor laws are involved.

Amal Bass, a Women’s Law Project staff attorney who testified for the Philadelphia ordinance, says,  “Senator Eichelberger claims he’s trying to ban Pennsylvania towns and cities from mandating earned paid sick days because ‘uniformity is important’. Meanwhile, the United States is the only industrialized country without earned paid sick leave. The only ‘uniformity’ we need is paid sick leave across the state and eventually throughout the country.”

This legislation — which Bass points out disproportionately affects low-income female workers — was amended to be retroactive to January 1st of this year, which means, says Councilman Bill Greenlee, the sponsor of Philadelphia’s sick leave bill, that, “If it passes in the form it’s in, it would negate Philadelphia’s law.”

Greenlee is baffled by the two legislators in distant counties who have taken up this cause. “We’re not forcing it on the rest of the state,” he says. “Let Philadelphia do what we have to do. It is frustrating after we went through everything we did to then have folks who are nowhere near here to try to take that away from us.”

As Greenlee points out, however, SB333 would have to get by Democratic legislators, the governor and, as he puts it, “some clear-thinking Republicans.” So it may be a tough climb.

Follow @LSpikol on Twitter.

Previously: Will State Bigfoot Philly on Paid Sick Leave?

Previously: How and Why States Bigfoot Their Cities