PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, October 24, 2013

Business Owners Divided Over Paid Sick Leave

(Svenstorm/Flickr)

(Svenstorm/Flickr)

Flu season is approaching, and the Center for Disease Control’s advice is simple: Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, and while sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

But what happens if staying home means you don’t get paid — or worse, you lose your job?

About 40 percent of American workers don’t have paid sick leave. The bulk of employees without sick leave work in the food service and child care industries.

But there is a growing trend of cities taking up legislation to require paid sick days. Jersey City, N.J., just passed a law requiring businesses with 10 or more employees to provide paid sick leave, and Newark will take up similar legislation next week.

Two business owners take different sides

Steve Yglesias, owner of Mompou Tapas Bar in Newark, is against the legislation, but only because it is too much of a financial burden at this time.

“We just went through seven years of a horrible economy, and on top of everything else … we had Sandy,” Yglesias told Here & Now‘s Robin Young. “From a compassionate level, as a small business owner, I think it is necessary to have paid sick leave for your employees. It’s a wonderful idea … I just think the timing is a little off.”

Justyna Stachowicz, owner of Art Kitchen in Newark, disagrees. She supports the legislation from a public health point of view.

“I think you’re saving money doing this, because what if the person comes, and makes other people sick?” Stachowicz said. “It’s just healthier for everyone to do something like this.”

Studies show costs and savings

Policy analyst and columnist Martha Burk, who has written about paid sick leave for Ms. magazine, agrees with Stachowicz’s assessment.

“I don’t think that we can get across the fiscal argument to people, but people do react to the health argument,” Burk said.

She cites a 2009 study by the CDC that found 7 million additional people contracted the flu from a co-worker who came to work while sick.

Another CDC study found that 12 percent of food service workers came to work even when they were sick with symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting.

Burk says about 40 percent of private sector workers — 40 million people — do not have paid sick leave.

A study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that offering sick leave to food service workers would cost a business an addition 19 cents per hour.

Cities lead the charge

Burk notes an interesting trend in legislating paid sick leave: individual cities, such as San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle, Portland, Oregon and New York City, have taken up the charge.

A number of Republican-controlled state legislatures have preempted this trend, Burk says, barring individual cities from passing sick leave laws.

On the federal level, Burk calls Congress’s lack of action on paid sick leave “pathetic.”

“It’s been introduced in every Congress since 2005,” Burk said. “It’s never even gotten out of committee. It’s never even gotten to the floor for a debate.”

Guests


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

May 26 5 Comments

As Lethal Heroin Overdose Numbers Rise, Families Find Solace In Organ Donation

Organ banks around the country have noted an increasing number of organs from donors who have died of overdoses.

May 26 3 Comments

NEADS Assistance Dog Bailey Graduates From Service Dog Training

NEADS provides dogs like Bailey, a yellow Labrador, for deaf and disabled Americans.

May 25 Comment

Celebrating The Class Of 2016: Peace Odiase

Odiase is one of two valedictorians at Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee.

May 25 8 Comments

NEADS Service Dog Meets His Match

Here & Now has been tracking service dog Bailey, who recently met his new owner, since last year.