A campaign aimed largely at asking how safe restaurants or day care centers can be if the people working there are not provided with paid sick leave ended in a crushing defeat this week in Denver.
Denver’s Initiative 300, which would have mandated up to nine days of sick leave per year for any employer with 11 or more employees, and five days of sick leave for small businesses with 10 or less workers, dropped like a rock on Tuesday.
Voters appear to have been persuaded by their new mayor, Michael Hancock, who painted I-300 as a job-killer and a costly addition to the city’s own budget. By a lopsided 64 percent to 35.9 percent (66,719 to 37,498) margin, voters said “no” to the paid sick leave scheme.
The Campaign for a Healthy Denver, which favored I-300, said 108,000 employees of Denver businesses lacked access to even one sick day, and that 72 percent of food service workers in Denver do not get paid sick days.
But the remedy the ballot initiative offered was even more generous than Denver’s union workers have won from the city over years of contract negotiations, and passage of the measure threatened the cash-strapped city with additional costs totaling more than a half million dollars.
I-300 was also opposed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlopper, the former mayor of Denver and a former owner of a brewpub located near Denver’s Coors Field.
The failed campaign for paid sick leave will probably come in for considerable scrutiny, including whether the charges is made about health risks from ill workers were accurate. “Public health education is a serious issue that should not be abused to score political points,” Dr. Frank Judson, a University of Colorado professor of infectious diseases and public health, told the “No on 300” campaign.
Judson, a former director of Denver Public Health, also said, “It has been extremely disappointing to see a campaign mislead the public with false claims of communicable diseases prevention in the workplace.”
Much of the campaign against I-300 was funded by restaurant owners, who saw the measure as overkill. They also opined to the “marginal cost’ of hiring that 11th employee who would trip them into offering nine days of sick leave.
The state of Connecticut and the cities of San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. have sick leave mandates. The Philadelphia City Council recently approved a limited version that applies to employers who do business with the city, after the mayor there vetoed a more general paid sick days ordinance.