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Denver Ballot Proposal Would Mandate Sick Leave

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Supporters of the proposal at the city clerk's office on Tuesday (credit: CBS)

Supporters of the proposal at the city clerk’s office on Tuesday (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – Should every business be required to give paid sick leave to all employees? The issue may soon be in the hands of Denver voters.

Supporters of one proposal say they have enough signatures to get it on the ballot in November. The requirement would apply to all Denver businesses, no matter the size.

Profit or non-profit, whether employees are full-time or part-time, the requirement would impact every single business in the city. Right now there’s no law that says a company has to give paid sick leave. Supporters estimate in Denver, less than half of businesses do.

On Tuesday a group of supporters of the requirement stood around the city clerk’s office in surgical masks to get attention.

“We want all workers to have paid sick days,” Erin Bennett with 9to5 National Association of Working Women said.

9to5 is hoping to make Denver one of just three cities to mandate sick leave. It handed in 12,000 signatures for a ballot initiative that would require every business in the city provide 5 to 9 sick days for every employee.

“This is not the right time to be doing this,” Pete Meersman with the Colorado Restaurant Association said.

Meersman said another government mandate is exactly what businesses can’t afford.

“Ultimately it’s going to cost Denver businesses more money and those costs will be passed on to consumers,” he said.

Brian Freeman, owner of Growers Organic, has a different take. He gives 5 days paid leave and says it’s a competitive advantage.

“At my two competitors I have almost seen 100 percent turnover in sales departments,” Freeman said. “My turnover; people beg me for jobs.”

Organizers say 20 businesses support their initiative. In states where similar measures have come up, those that have opposed them have been punished with picket lines.

“It’s unfair to the workers. The very people that they would be trying to help would suffer the most,” Meersman said.

“We think it’s not fair for a worker to lose pay or a job because they’re sick,” Bennett said.

Supporters in Colorado are not ruling out pickets and the issue could become heated.

The proposal requires businesses with fewer than 10 employees offer 5 paid sick days and those with 10 or more must offer 9 days.

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