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Seattle becomes first city to ensure permanent paid sick leave for gig workers

The proposed ordinance passed 9-0 in a Tuesday Seattle City Council vote. The ordinance will allow gig workers to accrue one sick day for every thirty days of work.

SEATTLE — On Tuesday, Seattle became the first jurisdiction in the country to create permanent paid sick and safe time (PSST) benefits for gig workers. 

Gig workers are independent contractors, like app-based food delivery workers. The ordinance was passed unanimously by Seattle City Council members.

Instacart Full-Service Shopper Michelle Balzer said it is important these laws are put in place to protect workers as the app-based job industry continues to grow.

“We have to naturally grow with it in the sense of having some kind of restrictions or regulations or something or else, you know, we get exploited or we get kind of left in the dust,” said Balzer.

Since 2020, gig workers in Seattle were granted paid sick leave as part of an emergency pandemic order, but that order was set to expire at the end of April, which had Balzer concerned.

“We have to worry about injuries and weather and illnesses,” said Balzer. “I mean, we're exposed to so much more than just sitting at a desk in an office.”

She now feels relief as a new ordinance was passed by the Seattle City Council which ensures gig workers accrue one paid sick day, which can be used for themselves, or used if a family member is sick, for every 30 days of work.

“That one day that we can use sick time is the difference between being able to pay our rent, you know?” said Balzer of the importance of a paid sick day.

"This is about removing impossible barriers and removing the chance that any worker will ever have to decide if they should go to work sick,” said Seattle City Council Member Teresa Mosqueda, who sponsored the bill.

The ordinance will take effect on May 1 for food delivery workers and will take effect on Jan. 1 for all other covered network companies. Mayor Bruce Harrell is scheduled to sign the bill into law at an event on Wednesday.

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