TACOMA, Wash. -- A proposal to require paid sick leave for all Tacoma small business employees was the focus of a town hall meeting Thursday night.

A group of more than 30 community organizations, unions and business owners organized under the name Healthy Tacoma aim to gain support for a proposed city ordinance that would make paid leave mandatory.

Dowd s BBQ is one of many businesses in favor of it.

Offering sick pay would be an extra incentive, said Terry Hayes, employee at Dowd s BBQ.

The company has five employees, none are offered paid sick leave. Hayes believes that incentive would not only improve employment turnover, it would also make workers feel more valued.

I think it would enhance the business personally, said Hayes.

According to Healthy Tacoma, two out of five workers in the city don t have paid sick leave. That amounts to about 41,000 people or 41% of the local workforce.

It s terrible, said Alma Gutierrez, a former server.

As a single mother of three, Gutierrez often put the needs of her family ahead of her personal health. During a shift, she fell and broke a bone in her foot. Her company did not offer her paid sick leave.

Less than two weeks they called me and said you have to show up tomorrow otherwise you re fired, she said.

In fear for her job, Gutierrez used a knife to cut off her cast and showed up to work the next day wearing a splint. The bone didn t heal properly and still gives her problems.

Supporters of the proposal say even if people can stay home when they re sick and still get paid, it s a public health issue.

They don t want their servers or bartenders ill while they re being served, said Rose Perrino, who attended the town hall.

Under the proposal, there are caps to how many hours employees can take depending on how big their company is and how long they ve worked there.

While still in the planning stage, the hope is to have either the city council or voters approve the proposal as soon as possible.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce is already fighting it. It believes mandating sick pay would be yet another financial hit to businesses still beat up by the recession.

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