Re: “Chamber CEO: Portland mayor’s divisive politics bode ill for businesses” (May 21):

It was disappointing to see the sensationalist op-ed by Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Quincy Hentzel, which whittled down an important public health and economic justice public-policy issue to an imagined “war of division” waged by the mayor.

First, this isn’t “the mayor’s initiative.” Workers and advocates have been organizing publicly for a paid sick days ordinance for well over a year. The first news coverage of this effort was just before a 200-person-strong rally last Labor Day. The proposal has been under consideration by the City Council’s Health and Human Services Committee since last November.

Second, this campaign is anything but divisive. If you look at the coalition advocating for a earned paid sick days ordinance for all of Portland’s workers, you’ll see that the campaign is actually bringing people together. United under the banner “healthy workers keep Portland healthy,” the coalition is made up of local employers and businesses, workers, organized labor, community and advocacy organizations, and health care providers.

The coalition includes EqualityMaine, the South Sudanese Community Association, Planned Parenthood, Portland Outright and the Maine State Nurses Association. Small businesses, restaurants and seasonal and part-time employers have endorsed the effort, including Cong tu Bot, Think Tank, Coffee By Design, Portland Paddle, Tandem Coffee Roasters and more.

Examples around the country show that earned paid sick days policies are a win for everyone: They increase productivity in the workplace, improve public health and provide a critical safety net for low-wage workers. Examples around the country also show that the lack of paid sick days for low-wage workers is an issue everywhere and that municipalities are leading the way in addressing the problem.

This campaign isn’t about pitting workers against employers. It’s about bringing people together to enact an ordinance that will help to make this entire community stronger and healthier.

Lizabeth Gelassen


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