State Reps. Fail to Make Serious Case Against Paid Sick Leave

speakout

by Bill Gaston, Greenwich

The following is a response to a letter published in the Greenwich Time and other papers by three state representatives opposing the paid sick days legislation. A version of this letter also appeared in that paper this week. Paid sick days did not pass the legislature before time ran out on the session.

The joint letter (6/2/09) written by Republican state representatives Camillo, Floren and Gibbons opposing paid sick leave for workers and families is an insult to the intelligence of the readers of the Greenwich Time. Rather than making a serious argument on why they think businesses would face a crushing financial burden with the passage of CT House Bill 6187 (which would require businesses with 50 or more employees to provide paid sick leave), these public officials instead resort to buffoonish, fact-free ideological assertions that only serve to cloud public understanding of this important issue.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States is the only one of 22 top industrialized countries that fails to guarantee sick workers some form of paid sick leave. As the CEPR has documented, the absence of such a policy means that tens of millions of workers go to work each day sick, lowering productivity and potentially spreading illness to their coworkers and customers. This is no abstract concern, particularly with the sudden emergence of the H1N1 swine flu virus, and the closings of schools and workplaces around the state and country.

In their letter, our troika of clueless state reps ask “what does accrued sick leave have to do with providing parents paid leave to take care of the immediate problem of staying home with a sick child?” Here’s the answer: Everything! Millions of working Americans can’t afford to stay home because they don’t have paid time off, and when they do stay home, they face not only the burden of lost income, but the fear of being fired. That may be fine for business, but it is an unfair burden to lay on employees whose incomes have been stretched to the breaking point, and many of whom don’t have the luxury of paid vacations or time off. It is estimated that nearly half of private sector workers and three fourths of low-wage workers do not receive paid sick days.

These burdens borne by workers seem lost on Reps. Camillo, Floren and Gibbons.

Rather than putting forth evidence-based arguments on the relative costs and benefits of paid sick leave policy, they instead stoop to ridicule. Alluding to the first-in-the-country paid leave policy (enacted in 2006) in San Francisco, our reps simply choose to lampoon the city as “the home to fascinating social policies such as granting citizenship to dolphins,” instead of addressing the issue. This is not serious argument, but caricature, and unbefitting elected representatives charged with the serious business of crafting policies in the public interest.

If our writers had bothered to do the least amount of research, they might have learned that San Francisco’s law – similar statutes exist or are in the works in Washington D.C. and Milwaukee, WI – has hardly led to an exodus of business in the three years since it has been in effect. Indeed, according to a 2009 study by the Urban Institute, business owners surveyed “were able to implement this mandate with minimal impacts on their business.” Is there any reason to think why a comparable program in Connecticut would be any different?

Finally, substituting ideology for evidence, our reps colorfully rant that “Democrats use businesses as cash-laden piñatas at which they blindly flail their anti-business sticks. Instead, the state should be doing everything possible to retain existing businesses…that’s the way we grow jobs, increase revenue, and create a positive bottom line.” By this logic, perhaps our reps would favor abolishing child labor and minimum wage laws. That would certainly attract revenue-hungry employers to Connecticut, and create a positive bottom line, but is this the price we would want to pay?

Rather than howling over imaginary worst-case scenarios facing local businesses, our elected officials should be taking their cues from the rest of the civilized world and crafting public policy solutions that benefit both employers and employees. Supporting mandated paid sick leave policies would a good and “fascinating” place to start. What is good for San Francisco and Washington D.C. and the rest of the industrialized world should certainly be good enough for Connecticut.

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7 responses to “State Reps. Fail to Make Serious Case Against Paid Sick Leave

  1. CTcentrist

    ….That may be fine for business, but it is an unfair burden to lay on employees whose incomes have been stretched to the breaking point, and many of whom don’t have the luxury of paid vacations or time off.

    And why, exactly, have those incomes been stretched to the breaking point? Could it be because of the hair-brained income redistribution scheme cooked up by you and your comrades? It doesn’t take much to take a look around and see that Connecticut’s quality of life is taking a precipitous fall, and that can be attributed to an unhealthy appetite for taxing and spending in an effort to hold on to a legislative majority. But that is one obvious fact that you’ll continue to ignore, I’m sure, as it doesn’t jive with your rigid ideaology.

  2. Interesting story line highlighting Republicans in opposition to sick pay but what you forgot to say, not even Democrats could get behind this bill. Just ask Don Williams in the Senate why he couldn’t get the votes from his own caucus?

    If Williams can’t convince Democrats to take a whack at evil business owners, either the bill was a complete joke or Williams was simply putting on a little floor show for the working families. Which is it?

  3. Indeed, according to a 2009 study by the Urban Institute, business owners surveyed “were able to implement this mandate with minimal impacts on their business.” Is there any reason to think why a comparable program in Connecticut would be any different?

    And who has actually read the study?

    Yea, it didn’t impact their business. But how did it impact employees and consumers?
    Many business cut bonuses or wage increases to make up the lost cost.
    Some went to more rigid scheduling of employees.
    Some fired part time employees and replaced with full time.
    Many just combined vacation time and sick time into one pot.
    Some restaurants went from preparing food locally to preparing at a central location.

    In the summary:
    This study also finds that not all businesses respond the same way when addressing these increased labor costs, with some affected more than others. Considering the law’s effects on employers of different sizes and
    across different industries is critical to understanding the larger business and employment effects of a paid sick leave mandate. Further, policymakers should consider specific implementation challenges and economic effects that result when mandated paid sick leave is established locally, rather than statewide or nationally. Finally, ensuring that the business community is engaged in the design of these policies at the
    outset would help ensure that a paid sick

  4. pintofguinnessdraft

    i put the letter in context of the overall message CT dems send to the business owners of our state, sick leave is just another straw on the camel’s back.

    The question remains: Does CT foster a good environment for a business to start and expand or does it continue to put barriers in front of businesses by moving the goal posts after someone decides to invest in a CT business?

    Look what the CT Dems have proposed: 1) a 30% surcharge on any business making a profit, what message does that send? 2) How about getting rid of movie tax credit just as its starting to show some positive job creation? And as businesses take it on the chin, CT Dems continue reward their union constiuents for political expedience.

    Keep in mind Dem congressman are talking about mandatory paid vacation, http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22794_Page2.html.

    Is the next battle: Business won’t allow mental health days? When does it end?

    By the way I love the citing of a study funded by big labor, I could have guessed outcome before it was done.

  5. johningreenwich

    What makes it so easy to spot far-left proposals is that they just can’t help themselves from throwing in an extra, extra left marker to signal the faithful that this is one fore them. Witness the provision in this bill that workers be allowed to “donate” their unused sick days to anyone else in their company. What in God’s name makes this a good idea unless you have absolutely no concern for business? How much do you think this provision will cost, not just in labor but in accounting costs? And this doesn’t just affect greedy businesses that don’t provide sick days, it affects all businesses. I wish Mr. Gaston would gas off on why this is a good idea.
    The good news for employees is that they’ll have all the time off they need when their jobs move to Mexico.
    And moving on to the comparison with the other developed countries – Connecticut is not competing with Europe for the pertinent low-paying jobs, we are competing with Mexico and China. How about quoting their sick leave policies?
    The problem is that not only will they push the lower-paying jobs out of Connecticut, the higher-paying ones will think twice before open shop in our ridiculous state and being part of Yale’s liberal laboratory.

    Once again, Mr. Gaston, please explain why sick day donation is necessary. Just answer that one, forget the rest, I’d love to hear it.

  6. Wouldn’t businesses just view this as an extra vacation mandate?

    This will definitely lead to lower profits at businesses, especially since the sick days roll over into the next year. Under GAAP accounting standards, businesses must accrue for unused vacation time, and since this rolls over, they’ll have to accrue for unused sick time, even if no employee takes a sick day. This is because when an employee quits, he or she would presumably be entitled to be compensated for the sick days not taken (and if this wasn’t the case, the employee could just use up his sick days right before quitting). Furthermore, GAAP requires vacation days to be accrued because employees could use them later in the year.

    Also, to those who say that this helps business, or has a minimal impact on business: very doubtful. If something leads to more profits for a business, the businesses will do it all by themselves, without having to have the legislature of the state pass a law. So while there may be good reasons for advocating this (public health reasons, for instance), it’s going to cost employers.

  7. What makes it so easy to spot far-left proposals is that they just can’t help themselves from throwing in an extra, extra left marker to signal the faithful that this is one fore them. Witness the provision in this bill that workers be allowed to “donate” their unused sick days to anyone else in their company.

    What makes it so easy to spot ideologues is that they don’t bother to actually read the legislation they complain about.

    For example, the section of the bill that addresses employees donating unused sick time only says that employers are permitted to have such a policy if they want to. Just read the bill (lines 81-84). http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/amd/h/pdf/2009HB-06187-R00HA-AMD.pdf

    Here’s another one:

    This is because when an employee quits, he or she would presumably be entitled to be compensated for the sick days not taken (and if this wasn’t the case, the employee could just use up his sick days right before quitting).

    Again, wrong and wrong. The legislation limits the amount of carry-over to 40 hours, and doesn’t require employers to cash-out unused sick days upon termination. And the even if an employee wanted to use all of their sick days before quitting, they could not use more than two consecutive days without a doctor’s note.

    Look, I know this policy contradicts some people’s adherence to unregulated free markets. So just say that. Buf if you’re going to get into the particulars, at least get them right.

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