City lawmakers passed a watered-down version of a bill to give District workers paid sick leave Tuesday morning, effectively exempting local colleges who feared the measure would be a major financial burden.
The proposed legislation, which the D.C. Council discussed at a public meeting, mandates District businesses provide many part-time employees with paid sick days. The original bill, which was much more stringent on local employers, was hailed by unions and worker advocates but condemned by small businesses, who said it could cause layoffs and decreased health care.
In a last-minute effort, the legislation was changed and a split council overwhelmingly supported the measure 11 to 2. One of many additions to the bill made it no longer applicable to student employees.
Universities in the District said they opposed the original bill because it would force them to spend millions of dollars on upgraded payroll systems for part-time employees – most of whom are students. GW teamed up with nine other local schools to request they be excluded from the measure.
The three interested groups buzzed around a packed D.C. Council meeting Tuesday morning doing last-minute lobbying. Even with the approval, the measure may be altered before its second reading next month.
GW sponsored a small breakfast for the crowds of union and small-business members before the vote, where mayoral lobbyist turned GW administrator Bernard Demczuk spoke with the opposition factions. Wearing a T-shirt reading “B17-197 – Less Jobs for D.C. Residents,” Demczuk, GW’s assistant vice president for District of Columbia affairs, said he was there to support the University’s concerns but is also sympathetic of small businesses.
“The issue here for the University is that (the legislation is) creating a problem that’s unneeded,” said Demczuk, assistant vice president for governmental and corporate affaris, said of the original bill. He estimated it would have cost GW $1.1 million annually to implement.
Other GW representatives at the meeting included Director of Community Relations Michael Akin, Assistant Director of Community Relations Britany Waddell and Presidential Administrative Fellow Josh Lasky.
Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson, said the passing of the bill with the new language was “great news.” She added that the University supports the philosophy behind the legislation, but not as it affects higher education.
She said, “It’s always a challenge and an opportunity to make sure your particular issues are addressed.”
Correction: February 8
Demczuk is assistant vice president for District of Columbia affairs, as stated in the article. A later paragraph incorrectly identified him as GW’s assistant vice president for governmental and corporate affairs. The vice president for government, international and corporate affairs is Richard Sawaya.
This article appeared in the February 7, 2008 issue of the Hatchet.