Eugene Prepares to Look at Paid Sick Time

Dear Editors of The Nation,

As a progressive city councilor in the second-largest city in Oregon, I found your “Power to the City” feature article especially timely. Eugene is a mid-sized city located at the epicenter of a county that chronically  suffers from lower than average wages alongside relatively high housing costs leaving many working families to struggle in near poverty. In March I co-sponsored a proposal for an earned  paid-sick time ordinance that would provide workplace protections and financial security for approximately 25,000 mostly low wage workers in our city. This effort is modeled on that of Portland which implemented a similar ordinance in January of this year.

This proposal enjoys majority support on our city council as well as that of our progressive mayor. We are hearing from union grocery store workers who can’t take sick time until they have been sick for 3 days, hospital workers who don’t earn sick days, and workers who fear losing their jobs when they have to stay home to care for a sick child. A city ordinance would provide much needed protection for all these vulnerable workers and improve public health overall. Based on the data from  Portland, Seattle and San Francisco such an ordinance would not have a negative impact  on employment or business in our city.

With the support of a community campaign lead by the Working Families Party and Main Street Alliance the city of Eugene is poised to make history by becoming the first mid-sized city in the U.S. to adopt a paid sick time ordinance. It is my hope that we are just the first of many to take this step and build upon this movement for progressive public policies that protect workers and public health.

Claire Syrett
Eugene City Councilor
Ward 7