Earned Sick Time Initiative: No Go in November
Despite the jubilation of supporters Monday, over a 3-judge panel ruling that the Earned Sick Time initiative should be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide, don’t hold your breath. The Court also gave Orange County 20 days to respond to the ruling. And therein lies the rub.
Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles has indicated that he would need to have the measure in hand today, to allow printing and sufficient time to get it on the ballot in November.
According to reports, Orange County Commissioners made no decision on the Earned Sick Time measure today, at their regularly scheduled meeting. So, it is safe to say that the measure will not be on the November ballot.
In fact, Orange County Mayor, Teresa Jacobs, following the Court’s ruling Monday, issued the following statement:
“The court’s decision today reflects the ongoing confusion caused by a political committee rushing this initiative through the process. From the beginning, the board has been committed to following a transparent procedure outlined in the Orange County Charter – a process developed and adopted by the citizens of Orange County, not politicians.”
Jacobs reaffirmed Tuesday that the language of the initiative remained too vague and would need to be looked at again.
So, the deadline set by Cowles will be missed. And Orange County politicians and big businesses have conspired, once again, to thwart the will of the people. This, notwithstanding that the requisite number of signatures – more than 50,000 citizens signed off – were garnered to have the measure placed on the November ballot.
Why are businesses fighting this measure?
If the initiative ever gets on the ballot and if Orange County voters approve it, the measure will require companies with more than 15 workers – full-time and part-time – to provide one hour of sick time for every 37 hours worked, with a maximum of 56 hours sick leave a year.
So, yes, there is a modest cost to businesses of a certain size. Humm… among those fighting the initiative are Disney and Darden and of course, the Chamber of Commerce!
But studies have shown that an earned sick days policy is not a “job killer” as Orange County businesses and commissioners have claimed. In fact, the costs of not having such a policy are even greater, most labor economists say.
Recent work by Lonnie Golden, professor of economics and labor studies at Penn State-Abington and Stephen Herzenbert, an economist with the Keystone Research Center, a non-partisan research project in Pennsylvania, debunk this “job killer” myth. According to Golden and Herzenbert:
“Paid sick days are good for business and the community, as well as for families. Businesses save because worker turnover declines, lowering hiring costs and eliminating lost productivity as new workers get up to speed.
The cost of hiring is high compared to paying for sick days because managers and human-resource professionals who recruit earn more than lower-wage workers. Businesses also save because paid sick days reduce worker resentment and improve worker-manager relations.
The community benefits because, when sick workers stay home, disease doesn’t spread to other workers or to customers. Workers also obtain more timely medical care and recover faster, reducing lost productivity and holding down health-care costs.”
Furthermore, a 2012 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health, published in the American Journal of Public Health, also supported earlier research that found access to paid sick leave is associated with shorter recovery times and fewer complications from minor health problems. The researchers also found too that, paid sick leave for workers could reduce the risk of spreading illnesses, particularly in day-care facilities and schools.
Golden and Herzenbert say, San Francisco which enacted paid sick days in 2007 provides a good example. After four years, two-thirds of employers, including two-thirds of small employers, are said to be somewhat or very supportive of paid sick days.
Perhaps that’s why in 2011, Price Waterhouse Coopers ranked San Francisco the third-most-successful “city of opportunity” in the world.
And how will Orange County be ranked?
As the county that threw its lowly-paid workers under the bus.