Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Mayor's Statement on Sick Days

On Tuesday, Mayor Nutter released a statement giving his reasons for vetoing Bill 080474, Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces, which would have allowed all Philadelphians to earn sick days in their jobs.  However, the Mayor's statement does not take all of the recent research and information into account.
  • The Mayor states that "the imposition of this requirement on Philadelphia alone -and not on a statewide or national basis - would simply create too great a burden on our local businesses, would render us uncompetitive in the global marketplace and would cost Philadelphians jobs."
    • Since 2007, when San Francisco’s law took effect, job growth has been consistently higher in the city than in neighboring counties that lack a paid sick days law. Total employment in San Francisco increased 3.5 percent between 2006 and 2010, while employment in its five neighboring counties fell by 3.4 percent overall.
    • The Philadelphia smoking ban, which was supported by then-Councilman Nutter, is one of many bills that faced the same criticisms of needing to be done at a state or federal level to avoid burdening businesses.  Yet when the smoking ban passed, it paved the way for a similar bill at the state level, similar to what passage of paid sick days at the local level can do for the state.
    • Since most other countries offer paid sick days (at least 145), offering the opportunity to earn paid sick days in Philadelphia could not make us uncompetitive in the global marketplace.
  • The Mayor also states that "Mandating employers to provide sick leave benefits to employees raises the cost of labor for businesses that do not already provide such benefits.  Moreover, the bill imposes considerable administrative burdens on businesses, particularly small businesses that do not have sophisticated time-keeping systems in place."
    • Data from San Francisco shows that 6 out of 7 businesses reported no negative effects on profitability as a result of passing a more comprehensive sick days bill than that passed in Philadelphia. 
    • Even without sophisticated time systems, all businesses must be able to report wages and hours in addition to calculating federal, state, and local taxes, not to mention payroll taxes.  Under the bill, workers would earn 1 hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked, which comes out to 0.025 hours of sick time earned per hour work.  This would not be a difficult formula to add to an employer's financial management system, spreadsheet, and/or list of calculations.
  • In his statement, the Mayor cites an analysis from Dr. William Dunkelberg, which concludes that paid sick days "would cost businesses in Philadelphia hundreds of millions of dollars annually."
    • Lonnie Golden and Stephen Herzenberg released a report in May 2012 showing many errors in the Dunkelberg study, including a doublecounting error, implausible assumptions, and questionable methodology.
  • The Mayor also states that the bill "fails to exempt businesses that already provide the mandated number of paid sick days from complying with other aspects of the bill."
    • The bill clearly states that businesses who provide an equal or greater amount of sick time, vacation time, personal time, PTO, etc., do not have to change their policies so long as people can take the time when needed (i.e. without advance notice).
    • However, the bill does state that employers cannot retaliate against workers for taking sick days (although they reserve the right to take action if an employee is misusing their time).  The exemption the Mayor is looking for, also known as the "Wal-Mart exemption," would allow businesses to offer sick days but to penalize employees for using it.  An estimated 128,000 workers in Philadelphia already face such retaliation even though they have sick days - one of the aims of this bill is to protect workers from such retaliation.

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