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Update: Seattle council says paid sick leave is right direction

Davide Taviani
Sick workers at Seattle businesses with at least four employees will now get some paid leave.

The Seattle City Council voted 8-1 this afternoon to approve the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, making the vote official after council members announced last week that they finally had the votes to pass it.

The lone dissenter in the vote was Council President Richard Conlin.

The Paid Sick Leave Ordinance will mandate that companies with more than four, but fewer than 49, employees provide at least five days of paid sick leave a year. Companies with 50 to 249 employees would have to give workers seven days. Companies with 500 employees or more would have to give workers nine days. Employees would start earning time off after six months on the job.

Council member Nick Licata, who sponsored the bill, called this another example of Seattle leading the nation in the right direction:

"Perhaps it’s not the best of economic times but we’re recognizing that a great city, a world class city, is one that cares for the welfare of all who work within its jurisdiction," Licata said.

Although the measure was drafted with input from a number of local businesses, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce strongly opposed the legislation. Opponents to the ordinance contend that it would be detrimental to small businesses and jeopardize other employee benefits such as pay raises, health insurance and vacation.

In his dissent, Conlin said he was disturbed by the possibility that management will use sick leave as a bargaining tool over other benefits such as pay raises or vacation. Conlin also argued all businesses should meet the same standards.

"It sets up a tiered system based on the size of the company or the organization. And I don’t see how this kind of inequality," Conlin said.

There are three cities in the United States where paid sick leave is mandatory: San Francisco, Milwaukee and Washington D.C.

Businesses will have a year to comply with the new regulations when the ordinance will go into effect September 1, 2012.

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