Sunday, February 24, 2008

Seeing Through the Ohio Sick Days Smokescreen

A group calling itself Sick Days Ohio has been pushing the Ohio Legislature to take up possible legislation that would mandate all Ohio employers with 25 or more employees to provide "full-time" employees with at least 7 sick days per year.

The first glaring problem with the poorly worded proposal is that it blatantly includes part-time workers--despite assertions claiming otherwise.

From the proposal,

"Employers shall provide each employee with not less than: (i) Seven days of paid sick leave for employees working 30 hours or more per week."

The last time I checked, a full-time work week is 40 hours a week, not 30. So, despite claiming the 7 day sick leave mandate would only apply to "full-time" employees, they've included part-time workers under their safety umbrella.

Hilariously, the third section of the policy proposal includes a list of approved uses of sick leave. As if workers with enough accrued paid sick leave will only use it for personal or family illness. Heck, if I had a hefty amount of paid sick days and I wanted to catch a Tribe game at the newly-Christened Progressive Field...well..Section 4414.03 of the Ohio Healthy Families Act is not going to stop me but its intended purpose will allow me to catch some afternoon Tribe games. Not that I would ever do that.

The entire case for supporting this sick day mandate is protecting families and their health. Emotional testimonials are made on their website claiming single mothers have nowhere to turn when their young children get sick. But the actual wording of the proposed bill includes a clause urging workers to notify their employers of an expected sick day 7 days before it is used. Huh?

"I think in a week's time I'm going to get the flu, I better notify my boss to comply with the Ohio Healthy Families Act!"

Please. This entire legislation is a thinly veiled attempt to rack up more paid vacation time for workers. It appears that Sick Days Ohio is being heavily backed by organized labor in Ohio--a group always trying to find political relevance as its membership continues to whittle away.

Organized labor's influence on this ill-conceived legislation is abundantly clear as the Ohio Healthy Families Act rolls on. Section 4114.08 is completely devoted to protecting Ohio workers' right to collective bargaining agreements. So, legislation that is advertised as nothing more than a straightforward plan of providing full-time workers with 7 annual paid sick days has turned into a pre-emptive protection of collective bargaining.

Unfortunately, Sick Days Ohio's website includes a YouTube video of a recent meeting with Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted, who committed to giving the proposal a committee hearing.

On the flip side, Ohio Senate President Bill Harris has given no indication that the bill will be given time for debate in the Senate.

God bless Bill Harris. The last thing Ohio needs is more government regulation on small and independent businesses looking to provide Ohio with some much needed jobs.

Why would Ohio businesses be vigorously opposed to more paid sick days? Because inevitably, with more sick days, employees take more days off.

In Europe, the continental capital of paid sick days, a workplace study of sick days determined that countries that provide more paid sick days by law also experience employees taking more time off more illness (supposedly).

In Sweden, the land that prosperous capitalism left behind, generous sick leave packages cost the Swedish government an eye-popping $5.2 billion in 2002. Or 0.16% of Sweden's total GDP.

To put it mildly, I don't think Ohio is in an economic position right now to shave off 0.16% of its shrinking GDP so that I or anyone else can pull a Ferris Bueller and catch a afternoon Tribe game. And that's precisely what would happen if this legislation was passed, this isn't about a child's health. It's about organized labor trying to secure more paid vacation time for its members by disguising it with emotional appeals and sick children. Now that kind of politics is what is truly sick.

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