Business interests and politicians such as Governor John Hickenlooper and Mayor Michael Hancock have come out against the 2011 Denver Paid Sick Days Initiative. But the proponents at Campaign for a Healthy Denver are fighting back with an event today and a video that promotes the cause via a tie-in with Contagion, currently the number one movie in America.
Contagion: Not Just a Movie was produced by Family Values@Work, a national consortium promoting the paid-sick leave concept across the country, including here. The clip intersperses excerpts from Contagion featuring the likes of actors Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow with footage of workers who talk about the issue, including one from Denver.
"Her name is Laura Baker, and she's a barista at a coffee shop," says Erin Bennett, Colorado director of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, who's been speaking on behalf of the initiative. "She doesn't have paid sick days, and she works nearly full time. So she's forced to go to work sick or else she's not able to pay her bills. Last winter, she had a severe cold, and if she hadn't gone to work, she wouldn't have been able to pay rent in January. That's a public-health issue that puts her customers and co-workers at risk, but she doesn't feel like she has a choice when bills are on the line."
As Campaign for a Healthy Denver promotes the video, the organization is continuing to stage events intended to spread the word about the initiative. Example: At 11:30 a.m. today at the corner of East 19th and High Street, a doctor, a nurse and patients, some wearing hospital masks, will talk about disease transmission.
Such grassroots efforts will be necessary if the initiative is to have a chance to prevail in the face of powerful and well-financed opponents, Bennett believes. "These things are reminding voters and the public that this is a public-health issue. When 41 percent of Denver workers don't have paid sick days, they're going to have to make difficult choices -- and these are real problems. The mayor and the governor keep bringing this back around to business issues, but this is really about the public's health."
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More from our Politics archive: "Denver Paid Sick Days Initiative to submit triple number of signatures needed to make ballot."