A demonstrator holds a sign calling for mandated paid sick leave during a rally in Portland in 2018. Credit: CBS 13

Dozens of Mainers marched in Portland Monday to rally for a proposed ordinance that would mandate all employers to provide paid sick days to employees.

“People who work in the service industry in Portland, who work as direct care providers, are all people who are disproportionately impacted in industries that don’t have earned paid sick days,” said Drew Joy, a representative of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling has proposed an ordinance that would require employers to offer workers paid sick leave.

He says last Labor Day, his organization and others formed a coalition to fight for earned paid sick days.

“It would allowed all workers in Portland to earn one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours they work. They can use it to take care of themselves, or a loved one when they’re sick, injured, or need to see a doctor,” he said.

Some Portland workers say they’re in favor of the ordinance.

“I’ve definitely had to go to work sick because I was afraid of losing pay, and couldn’t afford it,” said Bhumika Simon, an employee of a Portland business.

She says that the issue is bigger than how much money a company has to pay for sick leave.

“It’s really just a simple human rights issue that all workers deserve to take time off when they’re sick. It’s a public health issue, we don’t want workers to be in the workplace when they are sick, and we want people to be able to take care of themselves when they are sick,” she said.

Some employers and organizations in Portland say that the ordinance wouldn’t be a good idea, including the Portland Chamber of Commerce.

The Portland Chamber of Commerce released the following statement about Monday’s rally:

“The Chamber supports employers offering paid sick leave and in fact, employers can and most do offer paid sick leave without a mandate forcing them to do so. But Mayor Strimling’s one-size-fits-all local mandate is not the right solution for such a complex issue as benefits packages. The types of employers that make up our business community are so varied that it’s impossible to create a single ordinance that all must follow. Plus Portland is experiencing one of the lowest unemployment rates in our history and we trust our local businesses to do all they can to attract and retain talent — they do not need a municipal mandate to direct them in terms of employee benefits.”

Under Strimling’s proposal, workers in Portland would accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they spend on the job, up to a maximum of 48 hours a year. The provision would apply to both full- and part-time workers, but would not affect employers that already offer this amount of sick time.

Rally organizers say that the change would also provide better workers.

“Paid sick days improve productivity, and keep people in their employment for longer,” said Joy.

A similar proposal made its way to the Maine legislature in the past couple years where it didn’t pass.

Organizers say they’re hoping Portland City Council will vote on the issue before the end of the year.

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