Extremists Attacking Sick Leave: Enough To Make You Sick

By James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Published in The Detroit News on April 10, 2013

The anti-crowd is at it again. Not satisfied with anti-worker, anti-union and anti-living wage, extremist politicians are now anti-earned sick leave.

Legislation was approved by committees in the state House and Senate that would ban local governments from requiring employers to allow paid or unpaid sick leave that isn’t required by federal or state law.

It’s no surprise that this latest shameful attack on Michigan workers isn’t the only one. Once again, the plan to dial back the clock on workers is a vast, coordinated assault engineered by the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, to indenture workers to the almighty powerful corporations.

The onslaught is in response to movements in cities such as New York, Washington, Seattle and Portland, Ore., to require businesses to offer paid sick leave to workers.

Corporate-backed bills like what we’re seeing here at home have passed in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Mississippi and are being considered in Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma and Washington.

It’s enough to make you sick.

The so-called justification is an oft-repeated refrain – paid sick leave hurts businesses by raising administration costs and putting them at an unfair disadvantage.

But workers without access to paid sick time are more likely to go to work sick, putting at risk their co-workers and customers and costing an estimated $160 billion a year in lost productivity.

About 40 milllion workers, or 40 percent of the work force, cannot take sick days without losing pay or their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And children are more likely to go to school sick when their parents can’t take off work to care for them.

The Family Medical Leave Act provides only unpaid leave and applies to workers who are employed at businesses with more than 50 workers.

Access to paid sick leave is a public health issue, particularly in the food industry. An incredible 79 percent of food industry workers do not have access to paid sick leave, according to a Food Chain Workers Alliance Study. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control, which found that more than half of all outbreaks of the stomach flu can be linked to sick food service workers.

At least 145 countries ensure access to paid sick days for short- or long-term illnesses, with 127 providing a week or more annually.

That’s why a number of cities and counties have proposed ordinances requiring employers to allow workers to call in sick when they are ill or to care for a sick child without losing pay or their jobs.

But extremists are fighting back with plans to deliver what one legislator called the “kill shot” to earned, paid sick leave.

Serving as the model is a bill backed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and presented an ALEC meeting in 2011, which would prohibit local and county governments from implementing laws extending paid sick leave benefits.

Corporate-owned politicians scream for local control and states’ rights when it suits them. Now they are quickly casting aside their political “principles” to target working families once again.

To read archived articles from General President Hoffa, click here.