Advocates Rally For Paid Sick Leave In Portland, But Some Business Owners Balk

Apr 25, 2018

Advocates for paid sick leave rallied at Portland's City Hall Tuesday night to urge councilors to support a proposed ordinance that would allow all employees in Portland to earn up to six paid sick days off each year. 

Eliza Townsend of the Maine Women's Lobby, which helped craft the proposal, says it would allow all workers in the city to earn up to six days of paid sick leave each year.

"An estimated 19,000 Portland workers cannot currently take even one day off with pay when they or a loved one are sick," Townsend said.

Jessica Sheehan, co-owner of restaurant Cong Tu Bot, says it's an investment that would benefit the entire community.  "Asking service industry employees to choose between working when sick or missing a day's pay is harmful to their well-being, it makes for insufficient work, and it poses a health risk to the public."

But the proposal drew concern from many businesses.  Suzanne Foley-Ferguson, who employs mostly teenagers at her ice cream shop, says her costs have already increased by $30,000 from the city's recent boost to the minimum wage.  "You're basically killing me with all these little things, and kids are different than adults."

Foley-Ferguson says the ordinance is a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn't work for all businesses.  A public hearing on the proposal last Tuesday night drew similar concerns from employers.

City Councilor Belinda Ray said she expects it will take months to consider and possibly change the proposal before it comes up for a council vote.