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Small business owners express concern over Safe & Sick Leave

After 2 hours of testimony, revisions, and public comment on Monday, January 11, the Spokane City Council voted 6-1 to pass the Earned Safe & Sick Leave ordinance. Mayor David Condon spoke out against the ordinance before the meeting.

“The proposed sick and safe leave places an undo burden on businesses and job traders in the city of Spokane and hampers job growth,” said Condon.

Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees will be required to offer three paid sick days and larger companies must offer five. Employees would accrue one hour for every 30 they worked, an annual cap of 24 hours, and hours would be allowed to be carried over. There are some businesses that would be exempt from the ordinance if passed, including work-study students, independent contractors, seasonal or temporary workers, or those employed by a firm engaged in construction work.

Mark Starr, owner of David’s Pizza, says its not a matter of policy for his business, but of budget. “Yeah we want to do this, but is there enough money in the checking account and if there’s not what do we have to do to get that money in there,” Starr said.

Judy Beebe and Sally Winfree own Sweet Frostings bakery downtown, and they’re echoing Starr’s concerns. “It just feels like overnight everything has changed and now we are wondering what’s going to change next,” Beebe said. “We’ve gone through three pay increases with minimum wage already and we have not raised our prices and we don’t have the profit to cover that so now we have to cover this too,” she added.

Above all, many business owners are frustrated because its not their choice.“The problem that we are struggling with is the fact that we have somebody telling us how we have to operate our business,” Beebe said. “The policy feels like one more layer of bureaucracy”, added another business owner.

Matt Sonderen is the third generation owner of Sonderen Packing in Hillyard. He said he is disappointed in the council’s pursuit of a mandated sick leave policy. He believes an issue this big should not be left to seven city council members alone. “It should be an initiative that somebody brings up. It shouldn’t be just something that city council says, we’re mandating this for businesses and we’re taking over your HR departments,” said Sonderen.

City Council has sent the proposal to the Mayor for his approval, but Council President Ben Stuckart believes the Mayor is likely to veto. “I assume the mayor is going to veto and we will override his veto. It’s not just going to be vetoed. We have six votes that voted for this, and an enormous amount of support,” said Stuckart.

If the ordinance passes final approval, the mandatory safe and sick leave policy will likely go into effect in 2017.


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