Paid sick leave campaign goes down to the wire with charges and counter charges

Restaurant owner Jason Bailey said Thursday he supports Denver’s paid sick days initiative and he blasted the Colorado and National Restaurant Associations for fighting the ballot measure.

He termed the opposition of the restaurant groups “more of the same,” saying those groups represent large corporations like McDonald’s, more than they do people like him.

Bailey owns Parsley, a small mostly vegetarian, mostly organic sandwich, salad, soup and smoothie restaurant at 11th and Cherokee in Denver. In business 3+ years, Bailey said he does not have a formal sick day policy, but tries to do the right thing by his employees.

Parsley customer Kate Ross also attended the press conference Thursday at the restaurant. “The idea of cooks and servers without paid sick days handling my food makes me feel kind of sick right now, just thinking about it,” she said.

Earlier this week, supporters of the initiative held another press conference blasting the initiative’s opponents for relying on huge donations from out of state groups like the National Restaurant Association, which has contributed at least $100,000 to fight the initiative, which would require employers to give one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked up to 9 days a years per employee for a business with 10 or more employees and 5 days for companies with 9 or fewer employees.

If there is one thing you can say about this ballot issue it’s that the gloves came off a long time ago. As proponents point to all the out of state money being spent by opponents, the No on 300 groups is sending it out its own releases and holding its own press conferences to decry the out of state money spent by supporters. Supporters say that money, while coming from a national organization, was raised locally.

No sooner does the pro 300 group trot someone out to talk about the public health aspects of sick people going to work in places like restaurants, nursing homes and day care centers than the opponents bring out their own experts to say there is no public health impact from sick people handling food.

From the pro side: “As a retired physician, I know that the lack of paid sick leave is a public health problem–and that’s why passing Initiative 300 is so important,” said Manny Salzman, MD. “When workers don’t have paid sick days, contagious illnesses like the flue spread through our workplaces, nursing homes, schools and communities. I notice that the people who have been so vocal against the measure–like Governor Hickenlooper, Mayor Hancock, legislators and some councilmembers–actually have paid sick days.”

Opponents shot right back with a press release of their own, quoting a doctor of their own:

From a release issued Thursday:

CU Professor of infectious diseases and public health, Dr. Frank Judson, criticized Initiative 300 proponents for using scare tactics and false claims to campaign.

“Public health education is a serious issue that should not be abused to score political points,” said Dr. Judson, the former director of Denver Public Health. “It has been extremely disappointing to see a campaign mislead the public with false claims of communicable diseases prevention in the workplace.”

Dr. Judson served 18 years as the Director of the Denver Department of Public Health. He is a professor in the Department of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Denver, and just completed a four-year term on the Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock even filmed an ad for opponents.

Bailey panned the ad during Thursday’s event: “The mayor says the law is poorly worded. If that is his excuse, we would have very few laws. I’m concerned the mayor doesn’t want to help sick people. It confuses me a little.”

He said the mayor will be paid 100 percent of his salary even if he’s home sick. “The idea that someone who makes $10 an hour or less shouldn’t get paid sick time is ridiculous.”

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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