By Susan Pickup, Staff Writer
A Pennsylvania bill proposed in the 2017-2018 legislative session would attempt to preempt cities and towns from enacting mandatory paid sick leave for employees.
This senate bill seems to have one city law in mind. It would preempt the city of Philadelphia’s “Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces” law enacted in May 2015.  Philadelphia requires employers with 10 or more employees provide at least 40 hours of paid sick leave. The law requires that employers notify employees of their right to paid sick leave and that any violations of this rule are to be reported to a county Paid Sick Leave Office. Sen. John Eichelberger from Blair County said that the Philadelphia law was a “mistake.” Sen. Lisa Boscola from Lehigh County argues that the Philadelphia law places unfair competition on local business.
In December, Eichelberger sent a memo asking that the Pennsylvania State Senate consider the preemption bill S.B. 128. in order to follow other states seeking to resolve unfair competition issues for local businesses. In the memo, he stated:
Local mandates such as this create an uneven playing field for the businesses located inside the municipality. Further, as more governments jump on board, businesses with more than one location are forced to comply with a variety of different and changing mandates. Clearly, the state and federal governments are the appropriate policy makers when labor laws are involved. For that reason, twelve states have already passed such preemption bills.
Public officials such as Philadelphia Councilman Bill Greenlee believe that the proposed bill excessively interferes with city and town government power. Additionally, according to Greenlee, there were positive outcomes to the law, as it helped over 200,000 Philadelphia workers last year.
The preemption bill was put on the floor for its first consideration after it was amended by the Local Government Committee. As the preemption bill goes into its second consideration in the next few days, the Pennsylvania State Senate will have to determine whether it wants to step on the toes of city government power.
One argument is that while the preemption could negatively affect local government, it would permit the Pennsylvania State Senate to propose a uniform paid sick leave bill. Presently, it seems that Pennsylvania might be on the verge of developing a statewide paid sick leave law. Sen. Vincent Hughes from Philadelphia proposed the bill S.B. 207 for a uniform, statewide paid sick leave this legislative session. In a memo sent out during the same time as Eichelberger’s, Hughes asked that the focus should not be on setting a state standard, not removing power from local government. He states:
While legislative activity last session focused on prohibiting municipalities from enacting paid sick leave ordinances, I don’t believe that should be our focus. Rather, we should focus on providing reasonable paid sick leave provisions to our employees in a manner that recognizes the interests and concerns of the business community. I believe we can enact a well-balanced approach that meets both these goals in the upcoming session.
The bill was referred to the Labor and Industry committee in late January and has not yet been considered by the Senate. Pennsylvania appears to be ready to head toward statewide regulated paid sick leave and taking more control of labor regulations.