Coalition Seeks Paid Sick Leave In Eugene Businesses

Achoo! Uh oh, your hamburger was totally just attacked by a snot-rocket! Thankfully, 48 companies in the Eugene area see the benefits of not having sick staff serve food. Paid sick leave, which gives workers the ability to stay home sick without losing financial stability, could be granted to workers within the city limits of Eugene as soon as January 2015.

The topic of paid sick leave was first brought before the Eugene City Council on Feb. 24 by a coalition including Family Forward, an organization dedicated to making sure families are economically stable. After the first meeting, a majority of council members seemed in favor of learning more about the issue with Councilors Alan Zelenka and Claire Syrett as the strongest advocates. But during the second work session on April 9 other councilors like Mike Clark expressed concerns about Eugene losing firms due to the added cost.

Family Forward has canvassed around Eugene, collecting 2,200 signatures from community members in support of paid sick leave. Educating the community was a huge priority in the proposed timeline presented at the second council meeting.

“They’re not voting on it yet. They’re making sure people from the community are heard, which I think is important,” Family Forward Communications Director Lisa Frack says. “There’s a lot of on the ground work to make sure people are informed and that’s both businesses and workers,” Frack says.

Falling Sky Brewing is one of the 48 businesses in support of paid sick leave. Co-Owner Rob Cohen explains that his business is not as efficient if his workers are not healthy.

“We don’t ever want sick people serving food. We want our staff as healthy as possible.” Cohen says that his business will have its own paid sick leave within the next couple weeks regardless of the citywide debate.

“It’s good for public health,” Frack says. “It’s good for the workers because they can take care of their health without risking their financial security, and it’s good for businesses because they will have a healthier, more productive work force.”

These discussions are a direct result of the Portland law that took effect Jan. 1. Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce President David Hauser says that it is too soon to decide if Eugene should follow suit, though cities like San Francisco have had paid sick leave for seven years.

“I think it’s safe to say we have some concerns,” Hauser says. “The Portland law has been in effect for a little over 90 days, so it’s hard to say if it works or not.”

According to a 2010 study in San Francisco by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, “In the three years since San Francisco became the first city in the country to implement a paid sick leave law, job growth there has consistently been higher than in neighboring counties without such a law.”

The Eugene City Council will meet again in late April to continue discussing the ordinance.