Skip to comments.100 to 1, Crowd Backs Paid Sick Days (Madison, WI)
Posted on 08/23/2005 12:57:22 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
A proposal to guarantee all workers in Madison paid sick days got a warm reception during the first town hall meeting organized to help shape the potential ordinance.
Only one speaker, an accountant who said he was representing only himself, criticized the "Healthy Families, Healthy City" proposal as the audience of 100 or so groaned around him Monday night.
Jim Cavanaugh, president of the South Central Federation of Labor and one of the leaders of the coalition that's pushing for paid sick leave, said the City Council could have a proposal by its Sept. 6 meeting.
Other labor leaders were among those who championed the initiative. RobertKraig, state political director of the Service Employees International Union, said, "The lowest-wage workers have to hold multiple jobs just to afford housing."
As standards rise over time, Kraig told the audience Monday, society has put limits on what companies can do to compete, noting the elimination of child labor in the last century. He said allowing all workers some paid time to attend funerals, care for sick family members or recover from illness is a moral obligation that companies must face.
"This is an extremely important step," he said.
After a study last year found that the United States was behind 139 countries that offer paid sick leave and was on par with Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland in offering new mothers no guaranteed paid maternity leave, there was a push for federally guaranteed paid sick leave. But with the nation's current leadership, that proposal appears to be going nowhere.
Several local church leaders, who are teaming with labor to advance the issue, said Madison has the opportunity to lead the nation on the issue.
Mary Kay Baum, executive director of Madison-area Urban Ministry, was among a handful of speakers who suggested paid sick hours, rather than days, to accommodate the irregular shifts and part-time hours of many workers. She proposed a method based on what she does with her own employees.
Under her plan, workers could earn sick leave for up to eight typical shifts per year. For each month of work completed, they'd get one-twelfth of their total possible sick leave. For example, a worker who typically works standard 40-hour weeks would have about five hours of sick leave after a month, about 10 hours after two months and 64 hours - or eight days - at the end of a year.
"We need to convince the community that this is the right thing to do," Baum said.
After researching employment patterns in Madison, she said she was shocked at the number of workers who do not have sick leave - estimated at nearly half - and the family income statistics kept by the Madison Metropolitan School District.
She noted that about 40 percent of young students qualify for free or reduced lunches, and that more than 80 percent of African-American children qualify for free or reduced lunches.
"There is a race code in our employment patterns in Madison," she said, adding that the lack of sick leaves makes matters worse for families on the edge of eviction.
Brian SeptMatthews, a pastor in Madison, said workers are sometimes penalized and coerced to not take sick leave they might have. He said if a new ordinance were put in place, it would help families through difficult times and allow a faster recovery.
"Nothing is like the love of a parent or a close relative," he said. "If they're there, you get better. If mom kissed your knee, all of a sudden it felt better."
In a fiery speech that chastised labor leadership for breaking up their organizations and not doing enough, the Rev. J. W. Goldstein told those assembled that the forces against paid sick leave would be powerful.
He said that in the end, business leaders "don't give a damn about workers."
"If you expect to get this done, expect a lot of work," he said.
Others in the audience reacted to the matter personally, telling of the days that they spent sick at work.
Mike Quieto, a bartender and a University of Wisconsin-Madison teaching assistant, said he could call in sick for one job, but not the other. "I didn't infect my students, but I did sneeze in your cocktails," he said. "And I'm sorry for it."
Mike Goodman of Madison called paid sick leave "a stopgap measure" while a better solution, universal health care coverage, remains a distant possibility.
He said he was frustrated and angry that getting such basic benefits for workers met with such resistance while "there's an insatiable supply of housing at the $500,000 to $1 million level."
"I don't think that this will impose any severe financial burden," he said.
The accountant opposed to the proposal, Bret Willoughby, said individual unions should bargain for paid sick leave for part-time workers and that applying the standard citywide would be "sticking your hand in the hornets' nest."
The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce has also spoken out against the proposal, but it was not represented with a speaker at the town hall meeting Monday.
Of those who registered at the forum, 65 indicated that they supported mandatory paid sick leave, nine gave conditional support, two opposed the proposal and another two indicated no preference.
First they foisted an increased minimum wage on the Madison businesses. Then they banned smoking, putting bars, taverns and restaurants in jeopardy. Now they want to force Madison employers to pay people with "beer flu" or have a sick kid when they don't show up for work.
Who pays the self-employed when they get sick?
They'll eventually drive out all the businesses-- fine, that's what needs to happen.
The U of W Madison was just selected as the nation's #1 party school-- so the town AND the university is full of deadbeats.
Actually, as a public policy measure, this makes sense. Mildly ill workers who take days off are less likely to get sicker (and miss many more days of work, which costs businesses money), moreover, they're less likely to spread illnesses to other employees. In an ideal world, however, this is something that employers do for themselves, not a legislative fiat.
In other news, crowd over whelmingly supports six weeks paid vacation, company paid lunch, and the right to tell the boss to STFU.
(If what I just wrote makes you sad or angry,
One vote for liberty.
Excuse me, please, but it doesn't matter what the employees want - it only matters what the employer is willing to offer to get the employees he wants.
I was sick yesterday (still am today).
I could bill my clients anyway, but I doubt if they would like it.
I'll take a quick poll...
Don't get me started on the free/reduced lunch crowd in our public schools.
A newspaper investigation found that a high percentage of the applications were false. The school system knows this but does nothing. The reason? Federal Money.
What does this teach our children? That it's OK to lie if it gets you what you want.
Evidently the poor accountant doesn't realize that all companies have piles of unused money laying around and the only reason they don't give it to their employees is because they are too mean and stinghy.
DING DING DING DING~! WE HAVE A WINNER FOR MOST POIGNANT REPLY
Apparently he's not sorry enough to just call in sick. Stick your apology Mike!
Remember the issue here is not whether or not people can call in sick, but whether they still get paid after calling in sick. Mike, as a TA, was working a salaried position with benefits and perks. Mike, as a bartender, was probably working on a per-hour basis with tips thrown in. Hey Mike, do you also want your customers to send you tips for the work you didn't do when you had your runny nose?
What an asinine headline (by the paper).
Was there a single solitary employer in the room?
If you poll 101 bank robbers, you'll likely get 100 votes for outlawing jail, too.
Doesn't mean we ought to do it.
Self-employed people will probably be taxed. Just like as a self-employed person in Massachusetts I have to pay unemployment for myself. (I guess in case I lay myself off.)
We have x42 to thank, in part.
Au contraire, business leaders give their right arms for talent. They will do anything to attract it, compensate it, and entice it to stay.
If they aren't doing any of that for these individuals, there must be a reason... ;)
The "job" is dead, but these dodos don't realize it, yet.
Perhaps, but the reverse is also true. Employees don't give a damn about their employers and seek to screw them every chance they get.
Free! FREE paid sick days! FREE health care! FREE Lambourghini Countachs for ALL!
Hey, where'd all the taxpaying businesses go? *chirp chirp*
Agreed. From a financial standpoint paid sickleave makes sense. Not offering this benefit often means that sick workers will come to work ill simply because they can't afford to take a day off without pay. They spread their illness to other workers, which reduces company productivity as they, in turn, take days off or work at a slower pace while fighting illness. Sick workers are also far more likely to be injured on the job, potentially exposing the employer to additional comp claims or personal injury suits resulting in increased insurance premiums.
Numerous studies by both business and labor groups have shown that NOT offering sick leave costs companies more in the long run than offering it.
Still, I don't like the idea of this being mandated. If companies are dumb enough to ignore the studies and operate with sick employees, then they should have that right.
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