Denver voters on Tuesday shot down a proposal to require employers to offer paid sick leave after weeks of divisive debate that pitted business owners against their workers.
Known as Initiative 300, the paid sick leave mandate was on a ballot initiative on which 104,217 people voted. Of those, 36 percent, or 37,498 voters said yes, while 64 percent, or 66,719, rejected the measure.
Supporters of the proposal, including a coalition group called the Campaign for Healthy Denver, blamed the loss on “big business lobbyists crying wolf” about the impact a paid sick leave mandate might have on small business.
“The people of Denver lost today — people like home health care nurse Patricia Hughes, who was fired after calling in sick with pneumonia; Mandie Freyta, a Latina mother who lost a week’s wages because she stayed home with her four children when they had the flu; and people like barista Laura Baker and bartender Eric Love, who have gone to work sick because they need to work every hour they can just to make the rent,” said Erin Bennett, spokesperson for the Campaign for Healthy Denver.
“The people of Denver were unable to overcome the money and power of big business interests, from the National Restaurant Association and other lobbyist groups who are part of a larger national corporate agenda designed to stop paid sick days,” Bennett said.
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Bennett noted that industry groups spent more than $837,000 to defeat Initiative 300. Supporters of the measure reportedly collected contributions totaling $462,984 from outside supporters such as 9to5, National Association of Working Women and Family Values@Work.
If adopted, Initiative 300 would have required employers to offer paid sick leave to full and part-time employees, up to a maximum of 72 hours per year at businesses with 10 or more employees and a maximum of 40 hours for staffers at smaller companies.
Opponents of the mandate celebrated the results, saying the proposal as written would have done more damage than good for businesses struggling against economic headwinds.
“We truly appreciate Denver voters for rejecting the false and negative attacks on restaurants, and voting against this job-killing proposal,” said Pete Meersman, president and chief executive of the Colorado Restaurant Association.
Matthew Halme, vice president of government affairs and corporate counsel for OSI Restaurant Partners LLC, operator of Outback Steakhouse and other brands, spoke as a board member for the Profit Per Employee Coalition, saying, “Clearly, voters were astute enough to make the obvious connection between these types of mandates and job loss.
“Mandatory leave proponents think these types of workplace and social mandates are good public policy goals,” he added. “Employers and voters are pragmatists who acutely understand that these mandates don’t happen in a vacuum and they aren’t free. The cost is almost always job loss and economic stagnation.”