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OP-ED | Sick Days: Apocalypse Now?

by Jon Green | May 30, 2011 12:55am
(7) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Opinion

They said it would “threaten our distinctively American experiment of individual freedom.” They said it would “go a long way towards destroying American initiative and courage.” They said it “could close every business in this nation.” They said it cause “the wiping out of industry in this state.” They said it was a “threat to the entire American economy and to every person in America.”

These threats and warnings came from the mouths of respected corporate leaders of their day. But did our elected officials listen? No.

And thank goodness! Had elected officials caved into these scare tactics our seniors would not have social security or Medicare to ensure health and dignity in retirement. Workers would have no minimum wage or occupational safety protections. Clean air and water laws? Nope, we could kiss them goodbye too.

Today, these same threats can be heard from lobbyists echoing around the halls of the state Capitol. Today’s target: paid sick days. Just as creating a minimum wage, Medicare, social security, and OSHA were all characterized by opponents in terms that were barely short of apocalyptic, business lobbyists say that ensuring a handful of paid sick days for service workers will trigger economic catastrophe.

Warnings that the sky will fall are ironic given recent economic history. In 2008, the sky did fall. Was the great recession sparked by part-time waitresses suddenly getting paid sick days? Or was it because our financial industry was allowed to act like a casino and when the house lost big it was up to the taxpayers to foot the bill? Three years later Wall Street has recovered. Corporate profits are back to their highest level in decades. Dividends and big executive bonuses are back in style.

But how’s the part-time waitress doing? If she’s lucky, she’s still patching together enough hours to pay her bills. Her house lost 20% of its value. She had to spend down some of her kids’ college savings just to pay bills. And she’s still a bad cold away from losing a job. What’s wrong with this picture?

No, paid sick days legislation won’t damage our economy. It will provide a little economic security for some of our most vulnerable families. It will give some peace of mind for low wage service employees who are at risk of losing wages, or even their job, every time they get sick. It will allow working moms to stay home when their toddlers are sick instead of sending them to school. And it will benefit the public when those service workers don’t feel compelled to come to work sick – in restaurants, nursing homes, daycares.

This is not to say that there are no costs. But the minority of employers who do not offer paid sick days will soon learn what the majority of employers already know: the cost is really, really small. Economists estimate that the average employer who provides no paid sick days to any employees will experience a cost increase of 0.2%. That’s equivalent to a $5 foot-long sandwich at Subway getting marked-up to $5.01—hardly what I’d call “costly.”

Fortunately, we needn’t only speculate about the impact of this legislation. San Francisco’s paid sick leave policy has been on the books for several years and is now the subject of considerable research.

According to the City’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, no employers left the city or reduced employment because of the ordinance. The head of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Restaurant Association has called the law “the best policy for the lowest cost.”

Just recently, the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers released a study that ranked San Francisco as the third best city in the world for attracting business and entrepreneurs. “San Francisco is known for having more progressive social policies like paid sick leave, but it really held its own as a business center that attracts entrepreneurs,” they said. So much for the theory that guaranteeing paid sick days is damaging to our business reputation.

Scare tactics are nothing new. But what kind of world would we live in if our elected officials allowed scare tactics to rule the day? A world without Medicare or the minimum wage. A world without Social Security or the Clean Water Act. I’ll take reason over fear anytime.

Jon Green is executive director of the Working Families Party.

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(7) Comments

posted by: StarveTheBeast | May 30, 2011  6:43pm

Jon, You are so right!!!!  Government ALWAYS knows what is right for the people and corporations of this country!! But why stop here?? What about the poor, poor restaurant worker that uses up all his Government ordered sick time?? Do you realize that he/she(or a combo of the two) will be forced to go to work SICK?? OH NO!!!!!!  We cant allow this to happen!!  Maybe Government should place a hefty fine on the business (which goes right into the general fund of course) if this happens. Maybe more sick time should be mandated. Lots more.
  Could it be that he/she worked too hard and got sick because they have no vacation time??  SAY ITS NOT SO!!!!  Government mandated vacation time. Problem solved.
  While your at it, You said “Corporate profits are at their highest level in decades”. Time to take the bull by the horns and confiscate those profits. Every penny. Do you realize the good the “Working Families Party” could do with all that extra cash? 1) More busways are needed SO badly!!  How about one from Joyceville to East Thompson Connecticut. Now theres innovation and forward thinking!! 2) All the public sector unions have been suffering hugely from lack of revenue. Mandate much higher worker dues. 3) The public workers in this state have been suffering the worst. Their children have been forced to eat off the dirt floors for far too long. Quadruple all state workers salarys and retirements!! And cars, they need new government cars every 6 months!! Free schooling too. Whichever school they want,in any state or country,for however long. Almost forgot about new houses too!! Every one should get a new house. Children of workers too.
So in conclusion, Jon, you are my Idol, and the person I will go to anytime I need information. Because I know you and your “working Families party” know what is best for me.

P.S. Why does “Working Families Party” remind me so much of “National Socialist German Worker’s Party”?

posted by: hawkeye | May 30, 2011  10:12pm

The Working Families Party professes Socialist ideology—which Governor Dannel P. Malloy lives by in his staggering, and insane-budget-agenda.

It’s time for Malloy to use his sick days!  Malloy is very sick, and is making the State of Connecticut suffer for it!

posted by: skydogct | May 30, 2011  11:15pm

Republicans won’t be satisfied until they push working people back 100 years. As of now, Republicans in Maine, Missouri, and other states are proposing legislation to repeal child labor laws, which would allow children to begin work at an earlier age, for longer hours, and for less than the minimum wage. They aim to be business-friendly states. Maybe those kids can see about getting a Working Families Party in their state.

posted by: MichaelThoughts | May 31, 2011  9:53am

@STB: You can disagree with this policy and with the Working Families Party, but suggesting a comparison between the WFP and Nazis takes it way too far. We have too much of this kind of distorted and hyperbolic language in our world. I would expect this on the discussion board of a certain paper in Hartford, but the readers of CTNJ usually show better judgment than this.

posted by: Hoosier@CT | May 31, 2011  10:39am

It is all well and good to provide employee’s with paid sick leave, but not when you, as a state, single yourself out. CT’s policies make employer’s look elsewhere for a more “business friendly” state. This type of policy should be implemented at the federal level to “level” the playing field. I am sure most “employee’s” would rather have a job, than sick paid leave. It is legislation like this which put CT in the top 3 of the most business “unfriendly” states.

posted by: HoratioAlger | June 1, 2011  11:35am

So if this is so great why are the State, municipalities, and school districts exempt???

Particularly egregious is the fact that per diem employees of the state, most of whom work the same 37 hours as full time employees, but without benefits, will not get sick time.

If this thing is so noble why did the legislature exempt the people who work for them???

posted by: Matt W. | June 1, 2011  3:25pm

Matt W.

@Horatio: According to the Divine Right of Kings, the king is not subject to the will of his people. Since only God can judge an unjust king, the king can do no wrong. 

I’m pretty sure that’s how the state sees this. No criticism is valid so they can do whatever they want, to include adopting policy which is clearly and blatantly hipocritical, b/c you cannot challenge their authority. 

Do you feel represented yet?