All employees deserve paid sick leave

Steve Grossman, currently the state Treasurer, is running for Governor. - promoted by david

cross-posted on MetroWest Daily News

This morning nearly a million of our fellow citizens woke up and went to work without a single hour of earned sick time.

People with the flu go to work sick because they worry about being fired. Parents send their children to school sick because they worry about losing their jobs. Others, too afraid to ask for time off from work, watch their aging parents suffer, unable to shuttle them between doctors’ appointments.

This is morally wrong and economically unwise. It’s wrong when we force our citizens to choose between economic security and physical or emotional well-being. We may never create equal outcomes, but together we must do all we can to provide equal opportunity.

That’s why I testified before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development this month in support of a bill providing earned sick time to workers across this Commonwealth, a common-sense policy I first testified in support of seven years ago.

The proposal before the legislature is carefully crafted, providing employees with one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work, with a maximum of 56 hours for companies with 10 or more workers. To protect small businesses, companies with 6-10 workers could limit the annual leave to 40 hours, and companies with fewer than six employees could offer unpaid leave instead.

The pending legislation covers treatment for illness along with routine medical visits. It applies to workers, their spouses, their children and their parents. And it also covers the legal, medical, or psychological consequences of domestic violence.

At Grossman Marketing Group, we took care of our workers and provided generous paid leave. Why? Because the most important asset we had were the women and men who came to work everyday. Treating workers with the dignity and respect they deserve produces great companies.

When doctors diagnosed my colleague Jimmy Lynch, one of our top pressmen, with throat cancer in 2005, we told Jimmy to focus on getting better and not to worry about anything else. He stayed on at full pay for more than six months while he recovered. Jimmy came back and still works at the company today. And our company continues to thrive each day because of loyal workers like Jimmy.

My grandfather built our company on a foundation of quality, value, service, and professionalism. For more than a century, through four generations of family ownership, our success depended on retaining an experienced and talented workforce. We need our colleagues to contribute their expertise each day on the job.

I urge the legislature to pass this bill. But if it does not, and I’m privileged to be elected your next governor, earned sick time will be the first bill I file in 2015.

Many of those opposed to this legislation who helped stall it for seven years ask how businesses can afford to pay their employees for a modest amount of sick time. But having run a successful business for 36 years, I ask the critics, including my friends in the business community, how can we afford not to?

As Governor Patrick likes to say, too often we accumulate political capital and then fail to spend it.

I can’t think of a more urgent issue facing our Commonwealth today than a proposal to treat our fellow citizens with dignity and respect.

And I will gladly spend the political capital I’ve built up during decades in business and politics to help it pass.


4 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Careful with earned sick time legislation!

    It depends from business to business. I don’t doubt there are many places where workers are forced to come to work even when incapacitated by flu or temporary sickness. But in other businesses, especially office work which is not customer facing, managers grant sick time on an informal basis without too many formalities.

    If sick time becomes required by legislation, these businesses that are liberal with sick time will work the restrictions into paid time off – and the net effect for new employees will actually be fewer sick times.

    Also, work places which have officially a number of days of sick time sometime find the practice abused. For example, in my school district it often stated that teachers will take religious holidays off as a sick day en masse if that particular religious holiday is not added to the school calendar. Now adding those religious holidays to the school calendar would not be a problem – except that the denomination or ethnicity of the students is not the same as that of the teachers.

    So in effect, the sick time policy ensures indirectly that school holidays are conveniently arranged to match the teacher’s denomination or ethnicity, but not that of the students.

    Legislation for sick time may be needed, but it has to be targeted very carefully for the businesses that abuse their employees. A blanket application of sick time legislation for all businesses without distinction may cause unintended side effects.

    • Great idea for economics and public health

      My first boss out of college was a real germaphobe and always forced us to go home after even one sneeze and would lecture us on how many hours were wasted if we came in sick and got other infected. In my head I was thinking, alright buddy then pay me some sick days!

      It’s pretty simple and straightforward and I thank the Treasurer for his support.

    • Good news for you

      The Massachusetts Constitution only allows employee-benefit laws that would increase costs for municipalities if (1) the legislature votes for the law by a 2/3 vote in each house; (2) the town itself adopts the change by vote or by appropriating money for the change; (3) the legislature approves state funding to cover any cost.

      For that reason, the ballot initiative for earned sick leave gives towns a chance to sign off before they’d have to implement:

      “Employee”, any person who performs services for an employer for wage, remuneration, or other compensation, except that employees employed by cities and towns shall only be considered Employees for purposes of this law if this law is accepted by vote or by appropriation as provided in Article CXV of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth

      Likewise, barring the highly unlikely event of 2/3 support in both houses (that only happens with Tea Party initiatives in Republican legislatures), your town will have the chance to sign off on any law coming from the General Court before being impacted.

  2. Thanks to Treasurer Grossman

    For his longstanding support of this important issue. His has been a strong and unwavering voice for earned sick leave in Massachusetts.

    I’d also remind people that, while the bill referred to in the post still is pending in the legislature, we also are planning to take this issue directly to the voters on the 2014 ballot. There are some small differences between the legislative proposal and the ballot initiative, but they are substantially similar. We’re also working to put raising the state’s $8 minimum wage on the ballot.

    Activists across the Commonwealth are collecting signatures as I write, and it’s going well so far, but we could use your signature — and your help getting your friends and neighbors to sign.

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Sat 29 Apr 11:34 AM