Denver City Paid Sick Leave Measure (November 2011)

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A Denver City Paid Sick Leave Measure was on the November 1, 2011 ballot in the city of Denver which is in Denver County.

This measure was defeated

  • YES 37,498 (35.98%)
  • NO 66,719 (64.02%)Defeatedd[1]

This measure would have required that all businesses in Denver give their employees a set amount of paid sick leave from work. Both full and part time employees would have earned one hour of sick leave per thirty hours of work, giving them nine days a year for sick leave. Smaller companies with less than ten employees would have only been required to give five days maximum per year of sick leave. This measure was put on the ballot by a successful petition drive by supporters of paid sick leave.[2]


Proponents of the measure, who were able to get the needed signatures for approval on the ballot, included local health organizations in the city as well as coalitions of organized labor and clergy groups. Supporters had needed to get 3,973 valid signatures for approval, they had turned in 12,636 total signatures. Proponents noted that the high signature count should show others that there was wide spread support for the ballot measure. In the interest of public health, paid sick days should be mandatory, proponents argue.[3] The main argument of proponents was that public health concerns were the main issue with this ballot measure, emphasizing those that work in hospitals and child care. Some unions, health and restaurant workers and social-policy foundations had also given their support of this measure.[4]

In response to the recent outbreak of listeria in some cantaloupes, the group Campaign for a Healthy Denver, had sent out mailings showing cantaloupes along side a pasta dish, suggesting that those who handle food should be healthy and therefore have safer food.[5]

The think tank Bell Policy Center had given its support behind this measure, noting that paid sick leave would be good for workers and businesses and would only have a minimal economic impact. Though the group noted that there would be additional costs to companies, allowing for sick leave would also increase productivity and reduce worker turnover rates. The think tank published a report about their findings and the benefits of sick leave, also comparing cities which have similar measures in place.[6] Some restaurant employees had also shown their support for this measure, dismissing claims that workers would abuse paid sick leave days. One employee noted that taking paid sick leave still makes them lose money as they would not get any tips, which they would normally get, for those days they are sick. Also noting that they should not have to choose between losing their job and the health of themselves or their customers.[7]

In the effort to campaign for this measure, those in support have created a walking puppet shaped as a something which designates sickness. Supporters had the puppet walking around Denver handing out fliers in favor of the measure, though local businesses have complained that the puppet has been scaring away customers. The puppet was called Sick Rick and even started its own Twitter account.[8]


No on Initiative 300 ad

A number of organizations were campaigning against this measure, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Restaurant Association had already started to head up opposition to the measure. The Mayor of Denver also noted his opposition to the measure, stating that this would not promote job growth in the city so he would not support it.[2] The Mayor had also stated that his goals for the city government include making it faster and stronger and the initiative would not help the government achieve that goal. Talking with other business owners also solidified the position by stating that sick leave would just add more challenges to running their businesses.[9]

The Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, had stated his opposition to this measure, noting that it was not the right direction for Colorado's economy at the moment. While he did state that the ballot measure had good intentions, it was just the wrong time to ask for it. He stated these opinions at a recent speech at the Economic Club of Colorado on September 8.[10]

Opponents continued to campaign fiercely against this measure, a joint press conference was held by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Colorado's African-American Chamber of Commerce, and Colorado's Women's Chamber of Commerce to announce why they all thought this measure was ill timed and bad for the cities small businesses. Others also pointed out the cost to the city, should the statute be approved, approximately $750,000 a year to maintain the bureaucracy which would enforce it. Opponents also counter the mailer sent out by supporters which suggest that the listeria outbreak is linked to this issue. Opponents commented that the outbreak had nothing to do with this measure and proponents were wrong to suggest the connection.[11]

The Colorado Restaurant Association had hosted a rally on October 3, the goal was to have industry representatives join the rally and to prompt further opposition against the measure.[12]

The Mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, had taped a commercial against initiative 300, which was aired on Denver stations. The commercial reiterates the Mayor's feelings against the measure, that it is poorly written and would hurt Denver businesses more than it would help them. The group Keep Denver Competitive was the force behind the commercial, which had been the main force of opposition to the measure.[13]

Text of Measure

The question on the ballot:

Shall the voters for the City and County of Denver adopt an ordinance that will provide that all employees (full-time, part-time and temporary) when they become employed within the geographic boundaries of Denver earn one hour of paid sick and safe time for every thirty hours worked, limited to seventy-two hours a year in the case of businesses with 10 or more total employees and forty hours in the case of businesses with fewer than ten total employees, to be used for themselves or to care for a family member (related by blood, marriage, legal adoption or affinity) in case of illness, need for preventative care or domestic violence needs, except that employees of new businesses with fewer than ten employees will not accrue paid sick and safe time until the business has been in operation for one year, and under said ordinance retaliation for use of paid sick and safe time will be prohibited and employers will be required to give notice to employees of their rights and keep records related to payment of paid sick time?[14][15]

See also

Additional reading