Pittsburgh City Council To Explore Sick Leave Mandate

Jun 17, 2015

A rally in support of paid sick leave legislation was held outside the City-County building Downtown on Wednesday.
Credit Courtesy Jennifer England / Pink Coat Communications

Workers in Pennsylvania’s largest city now have the right to earn and use sick days without retaliation, thanks to a bill passed by Philadelphia City Council in February.

But for the state’s second biggest city, it might not be so straightforward.

A bill in the state House Labor and Industry Committee would prohibit municipal governments from mandating that businesses offer sick leave to employees.

Senate Bill 333 passed the state Senate 37-12 in April. Corresponding legislation, House Bill 184, hasn't moved since it was referred to the same committee in January.

“Clearly, the state and federal governments are the appropriate policy makers when labor laws are involved,” wrote co-sponsors Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Fulton) and Sen. Lisa Boscola (R-Lehigh) in a January memo.

Gov. Tom Wolf said in April that he will veto the bill if it passes in the House.

But local activists are framing paid sick leave not as primarily a labor issue, but as a public health concern, particularly when it comes to people working in the restaurant industry. On Wednesday, dozens of low-wage workers and supporters rallied at Pittsburgh's City-County building, calling on City Council to enact paid sick leave legislation.

“As consumers, we have to eat this food when (workers) come in sick? It’s a concern,” said Carmen Brown, an Allegheny County democratic committeewoman.

Council President Bruce Kraus said he couldn’t go into specifics, but confirmed that he and his peers are discussing the issue.

“Council is … actively working with Unite Here and other organizations exploring the possibility of crafting and introducing legislation that would address sick days for all,” he said.