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Mandatory Sick Leave on Denver Ballot

In liberal enclaves like Seattle, San Francisco and Washington D.C., paid sick leave mandates on private businesses are just considered the routine business of city councils.

But in Denver, which is pretty liberal by mountain west standards, paid sick leave was not being embraced by the City Council, so unions and some of their allied activist groups got it on the November ballot as an initiative.

The Campaign for a Healthy Denver has been having a rough go.  It claims to have started with support from two out of three voters. But it’s hit some bumps.

First Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former owner a popular brewpub in Denver’s Lo-Do area near Coors Stadium, came out against it.   

The new Democratic governor and former Denver mayor is now spending his time trying to re-start the Centennial State’s economy and he thinks Measure 300 would keep the Mile High City in the ditch.

“You could not pick a worse initiative at the present time,” Hickenlooper said last month at a meeting of the Economic Club of Colorado.  He told the state’s top business leaders that the initiate would be a “job killer” filled with “red tape.”

Next up, Denver’s new mayor, Michael Hancock came out against 300.  He released an analysis showing the measure would add $690,500 to the city’s budget — already bleeding red ink — because the mandates in the ballot measure are more generous than Denver’s existing sick leave policy.

The proposed Denver version of annual illness leave would give employees of any business with 10 or more employees nine days of paid sick leave, and employees of any business with fewer than 10 employees would get five days of paid sick leave.  

Part time employees would get pro-rated sick leave time.  It could be used if the employees or someone in their family is sick.  That requirement would cost the city and county of Denver at least $450,000 a year.

A local liberal think tank, The Bell Policy Center, endorsed Initiative 300 on Tuesday, saying paid sick leave benefits the public at large.   The measure will add 3.6 percent to the total cost of compensation, according to Bell, but the research says it will be worth the cost.

The Campaign for a Healthy Denver, the pro-300 effort, has painted the picture of many food service workers coming to work sick and spreading their bugs to customers. Restaurant owners, however, are campaigning against 300.

Wisconsin-based Family Values At Work, with a contribution of  $75,000, is the largest donor to the pro-300 campaign. The National Restaurant Association’s $100,000 contribution to Keep Denver Competitive is the largest opposition donation.

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