The bill would require paid leave in businesses employing 10 or more
SALEM — For weeks, Senate Democrats have been unable to craft a compromise on a statewide paid sick leave policy, leaving a central piece of the majority Democrats’ 2015 agenda in limbo.
Key negotiators expressed confidence Tuesday evening, however, that they were close to a deal.
The stalemate has centered on which private businesses should be mandated to provide up to five days a year of paid sick time to their employees.
At a minimum, sick-leave advocates want employers with 10 or more workers to provide the benefit. But several moderate Senate Democrats — who, allied with Senate Republicans, can block the bill — want only larger employers, those with 25 or more workers, to have to do so.
Under the current draft of Senate Bill 454, lawmakers would let Portland’s 2013 paid sick leave policy, which applies to employers of six or more, stand. But all other cities would be bound by whatever statewide rules are set.
That decision would negate Eugene’s policy — approved in 2014 but yet to be implemented — that applies to employers of all sizes.
In an effort to break the Senate impasse, key negotiators in recent weeks have tried to pair up a paid sick leave proposal with other labor-related bills, with hopes of finding a package that could satisfy both sides.
Among the hodgepodge of highly controversial concepts discussed for inclusion: a statewide minimum wage increase; a ban on local governments enacting some or any labor laws; and allowing cities to enact their own local minimum wages.
Those negotiations have fallen flat, however. While the additional policy elements provide potential deal “sweeteners” for both sides, they also add complexity and new opposition to every possible deal.
With the session’s clock running down, paid-sick-leave advocates and lawmakers held a press conference Tuesday to urge the policy’s passage, on its own if necessary.
“We made a promise that if the people of Oregon elected strong (Democratic) majorities in both chambers that we would move forward on sick leave,” said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward, a Beaverton Democrat. “We owe Oregonians this policy.”
Rep. Paul Holvey, a Eugene Democrat who’s led negotiations for the House Democrats, said that he felt it was “perfectly fine to bring up” other labor policies as part of a possible package with the paid sick leave bill, Senate Bill 454.
“I just hope we can come to an agreement on sick leave where we’ve had a lot of” debate, he said. On “the minimum wage discussion, I think there are still a lot of differing opinions there.”
Regulate work schedules?
By Tuesday evening, two key Senate negotiators said they were close to a deal on a simplified package of labor policies.
Sen. Chris Edwards, a Eugene Democrat, said the latest paid sick leave proposal would cover any employer with 10 or more workers. The package wouldn’t include any policies related to minimum wage, but it would create, in a separate bill, a two-year ban on local governments enacting rules regarding employee scheduling.
The proposed ban comes as labor advocates nationally have started lobbying for laws requiring employers to give their workers early notice of their schedule and of any possible changes — policies dubbed “predictive” or “fair” scheduling.
Edwards — along with fellow Democrats Sen. Lee Beyer of Springfield and Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose — has favored the more moderate approach on a statewide paid-sick-leave policy this session. Without one of those three votes, Democrats’ 18-12 edge in the Senate isn’t enough to pass the policy.
“My primary concern has been the on-the-ground implementation” of the paid-sick-leave law, Edwards said Tuesday. “This is still going to be the most progressive statewide policy in the nation.”
Edwards that he supported adding the two-year ban on local scheduling laws to the package so as to avoid “another mishmash of local rules” on that issue. Otherwise, Portland may consider such a policy, he said.
“That will allow the Legislature to try and tackle (scheduling) on a statewide level as well,” Edwards said. “I’m hopeful this is a compromise that everyone can work with.”
Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Portland Democrat and leading backer of paid sick leave, said he was “very optimistic” that a deal was close Tuesday evening.
Although he declined to discuss specifics, Dembrow said he favored a statewide paid-sick-leave policy that applied to employers with 10 or more workers.
That threshold “excludes the really small ‘mom and pop’ operations,” he said. “But if you go up to 25 (workers), it cuts out a lot of folks.”