On January 11, 2016, the Spokane City Council passed an ordinance assuring most people working in the city the right to earn paid sick and safe leave starting next year. The Council voted 6 to 1 for the ordinance.
At the start of Monday evening’s 5 ½ hour long council meeting, the policy on the table provided for only three days of paid sick time. After listening to testimony from over 50 people – the overwhelming majority of them favoring a universal policy of at least five days, the Council amended the proposal. The ordinance as passed allows workers to earn an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 5 days in companies with 10 or more employees, and up to 3 days in smaller firms. Paid leave can be used for the health needs of the worker or a family member, bereavement, and to deal with the consequences of domestic violence or sexual assault.
The Spokane Alliance led the Earned Sick and Safe Time Spokane Coalition in a remarkable two-year organizing effort that included a listening tour with over 50 small businesses and nonprofits, multiple community forums, and collecting stories of impacted workers. They coordinated testimony and turnout at hearings and events, submission of letters to the editor and op-eds, and the delivery of over 1,000 public comments to Council members.
Spokane is the first jurisdiction in 2016 to pass a paid sick days law. In 2015, Tacoma was first out of the gate. Four states and more than 20 U.S. cities, including Seattle, SeaTac, and Portland, now have sick leave laws in place.