Differing views by 2 firm owners on the sick-leave bill that may come to a City Council vote today

Posted: June 16, 2011

Dewetta Logan and Bill Mignucci both own businesses in Philadelphia.

Both give their employees paid time off. How the employees use that time is up to them. They can call in sick. They can stay home to care for a sick child. They can go to the beach. It doesn't matter.

"It's simpler," said Mignucci, president of Di Bruno Bros., the gourmet food-and-cheese company with stores in South Philadelphia and Center City. Di Bruno Bros. employs about 200.

Logan, who employs eight at her West Philadelphia day-care center, Smart Beginnings Early Learning Center, agrees.

"I really support my staff," and they pay it back in loyalty, she said.

But here's where the two disagree: Logan supports the proposed ordinance before City Council requiring employers to pay sick time; Mignucci opposes it. Both have ample lobbyists and economists in their camps.

The proposal had been set for a final vote Thursday morning, but as of Wednesday evening, it was unclear whether it would come before Council.

Nine votes are needed to pass it, 12 to make it veto-proof. Mayor Nutter has indicated he would veto it.

"We're still hoping to pass it; we're working," City Councilman Bill Greenlee, one of the bill's co-sponsors, said Wednesday night.

Under the proposal, employees would be able to accrue sick time at the rate of an hour for every 40 hours worked, up to seven paid days a year, at companies employing 11 or more; the requirement would be for up to four days for companies employing between five and 10 people. Those with fewer than five employees would be exempt.

Employees could use the time to care for themselves, family members, or domestic partners.

Now, only San Francisco and Washington have paid sick-leave ordinances.

In San Francisco, the provision has not posed a huge problem, said Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. That's partly because the city has so many other tough mandates that this one is minor, he said.

A 2011 survey by the Institute for Women's Policy Research on the outcome of the San Francisco law found that most employees did not use all their sick days. The typical amount used was three days.

Most employers didn't have much trouble administering the law, and about 70 percent found that profitability stayed about the same. Fewer than 10 percent of the businesses had to hire replacements for absent workers.

The ordinance would hurt job creation, said Temple University professor Bill Dunkelberg, an economist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which opposes paid sick leave.

"The more government dictates the terms of employment and the wage and benefits that have to be paid, the harder it is to create job opportunities and the harder it is for workers to find compensation packages they prefer," Dunkelberg wrote in a column in Monday's Inquirer.

Mignucci agrees. He thinks Council should not interfere, "unless they want to come in and take responsibility for my profit and loss."

Logan counters that low-wage and female workers need paid sick time. It's the right thing to do, she said:

"If employers were already doing it, we wouldn't be having this discussion."

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Jeff Shields contributed to this article.


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