Philadelphia Law Ensures Businesses Receiving Government Subsidies Provide Paid Sick Days and Other Benefits

Oct 28, 2011

By Andrea Lindemann

Paid sick days laws are gaining momentum across the country.

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia City Council voted 15 to 2 to add paid sick days to the existing city living wage legislation, and on Oct. 27 the bill became law. 

The previous law, the 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard, requires that businesses  receiving city money pay their employees 150 percent of the minimum wage.  The city passed a bill Oct. 13 that amended the law to allow these businesses' employees to earn paid sick days.  The bill covers employers who contract with the city, companies receiving economic development subsidies from the city, and tenants who lease office space in subsidized buildings.  Mayor Michael Nutter did not support the original bill or the paid sick days bill, but this time the city council had more than a veto-proof majority.

The 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Ordinance ensures that as many employees as possible in Philadelphia are able to "live with more dignity and economic self-sufficiency" and to invest in a "better community economic standard."  Councilman Wilson Goode Jr., who introduced the bill to amend the law, said, "A person who works 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year should be able to live with dignity, fair wages and benefits, especially if the job is supported by taxpayer dollars."

When the bill passed, supporters cheered. To view video of the vote, visit

Philadelphia is one of five jurisdictions that have passed paid sick days laws. There is a growing movement across the country to ensure more workers can earn paid sick days and take needed time off to care for their own or immediate family members' health needs.

Next week, voters in Denver will take to the polls to determine whether their city will be next to pass a paid sick days law.  Visit the Campaign for a Healthy Denver to learn about how you can support the campaign in its final push to the finish line.

To learn more about job subsidies and job quality standards in your area, check out Good Jobs First, an organization that tracks state economic development programs and will soon issue a 50-state update documenting job quality standards attached to subsidies.  The organization's Subsidy Tracker is the first national compilation of company-specific information on economic development subsidy awards from around the country. 

Good Jobs First believes that ensuring subsidized companies create good jobs is a taxpayer issue. 

"We know that poverty-wage employers dominate the lists of companies with the most employees on Medicaid and children on State Children's Health Insurance Programs," said executive director Greg LeRoy.  "Food stamps, housing and heating assistance, the earned income tax credit and other safety-net programs amount to hidden taxpayer costs if we allow subsidized companies to pay poverty wages and no benefits."

You can also find information about how to engage business support for your campaign, at CLASP's Businesses and Paid Sick Days webpage.

site by Trilogy Interactive