Business Outreach Successes: A Look at the Philly Earned Sick Days Campaign
The campaign to pass an earned sick days law in Philadelphia is heating up – and businesses are climbing on board. With over 30 businesses signed on in support of the campaign, Philly’s Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces is showing policymakers and pundits alike that sick days make sense for everyone, including businesses.
Philadelphia, which passed an earned sick days law in 2011 that was subsequently vetoed by the Mayor, is optimistic about the chances of a veto-proof bill this time around. The campaign has done extensive business outreach to strengthen its position. In addition to holding on to the business supporters the campaign had in 2011, advocates have also attracted new champions to the sick days cause. In November, the Coalition held a business roundtable, providing a forum for local businesses to make the case for earned sick days. Almost all of the participating businesses were new to the campaign.
Marianne Bellesorte, Senior Director of Public Policy and Media Relations at PathWays PA, says relationship building has been key to the campaign’s business outreach success. Advocates have built on existing relationships with business owners in the area. She explains, “Our business outreach team began with employers they knew and then broadened their reach to those with at least one ‘high road’ value. These businesses may not always be “locavore” or environmentalist businesses – we sometimes find supporters in unexpected places.”
In their outreach, instead of immediately focusing organizing conversations on sick days, Philly advocates have engaged business owners by talking to them about a variety of positive things the businesses are doing for their employees. This introduction provides a jumping off point for them to talk about earned sick days with employers that already treat their employees well, even if they are not yet providing sick days.
The Philadelphia campaign’s business supporters include those in the food industry, legal services, childcare centers, and others. The campaign has worked closely with a consortium of childcare centers, Childspace CDI, that work collaboratively to both improve the quality of the care they provide and share best practices regarding how they treat employees. The consortium has been a great resource, attracting numerous signers to the campaign and helping to provide a counterpoint to supposed business concerns touted groups opposed to the bill. Bellesorte also suggests working with local civic associations that are set up to engage with businesses.
Finding businesses that are not only good employers, but that are also willing to step up and speak out about their practices, can be a challenge, Bellesorte acknowledges. But with the help of a part-time business organizer and effective outreach strategies, the Philadelphia campaign has experienced considerable success. Hearings for the bill are scheduled for March 5th, and the campaign has a law firm and restaurant lined up to testify.