Denver Paid Sick Leave Initiative: Campaign For a Healthy Denver hones in on the family

While No On 300 has upped the ante of its political campaign with a television spot reminiscent of those Mac versus PC ads, the group's opposition is focusing inward on the home.

Campaign For a Healthy Denver met this week to point a group of parents and children at Hirshorn Park in a direction focused on keeping ill employees out of the workplace -- and specifically away from children.

While the group has consistently advocated a position centered on public health, its latest efforts expand its dominant concentration on the health care industry so far. In recent campaign strategies, Initiative 300 detractors have cited movies such as Contagion and worn medical masks at rallies to illustrate how the spreading of illness can be related to a lack of paid sick days.

The recent approach, then, is a softer if equally serious one. About a dozen parents and fifteen of their children gathered at the park to discuss their concerns about a lack of paid sick days creating a need for people to work through illness. Applied to the family, the concerns here are two-fold: Children whose parents can't stay home with them might attend school sick, and this is accompanied by general concern that both children and their parents can contract illnesses in public places not backed by employee paid sick leave options.

"A few years ago, my husband's school had an outbreak of Fifth disease" -- an ailment characterized by a rash on the cheeks, arms and legs -- "and my husband became a carrier of it and brought it home to me," says Amber Minogue, who supported Campaign For A Healthy Denver at the Monday meeting. "I ended up with viral arthritis and was out of work for a week."

Minogue's attention is also settled on the paid sick leave opportunities (what she sees as a basic human right) of child-care providers. Those at her four-year-old daughter Riley's preschool, for example, do not have paid sick leave.

"Preschools are just a Petri dish of germs, and as a mother, you often say, 'How can people send their kids to school sick?'" Minogue explains. "But I understand that sometimes if you can't afford to take off work, you have no other choice. There's a trickle-down effect. If one child gets affected, the others do, and their parents do, and their teachers do, and it's a mess."

Although a few of the children present grew nervous and took to their parents arms instead of debating the issue, one accidentally proved part of the parents' point. "Those kids are virus carriers," jokes Jenny Davies-Schley, principal of Progressive Promotions, LLC. "One of the kids actually picked up something rubber from the playground and put it in his mouth. It was an 'A-ha!' moment."

Davies-Schley says the group plans to continue its focus on different aspects of the concern for public health as the November 1 election date approaches. In the meantime, supporters continue to look into research about the number of Denver-area residents without paid sick leave. According to a release from the Institute of Women's Policy Research, 72 percent of the city's restaurant workers fall into that category.

"It's really just more of the same," says Davies-Schley. "Pointing out that kids are affected by public health is slightly different, but it's all the same whether you're talking about patients or restaurants or everyone one else, really. One of the moms said it: When we go to restaurants and to the grocery store with our kids, we don't want our kids exposed to that kind of thing."

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