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It’s not nuanced, but the right panel is important. 35 permanent jobs will arrive in exchange for
a) eminent domain abuse and
b) oil spills that won’t be fined because of a legal loophole that says tar sands are not oil.
As for the left panel, here’s a counterpoint from earlier this year arguing that progressives should not focus on green jobs (from a messaging standpoint).
Access to birth control. Marriage equality. Immigration reform. Background checks. Each has recently taken a turn as a progressive cause célèbre. Is paid sick leave next? The New York City Council is about to pass a measure, joining Connecticut, Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. CBS reports:
The bill proposed Thursday would require businesses with 20 or more employees to provide five paid sick days to their workers beginning April 1, 2014 and to businesses with 15 or more employees by October 1, 2015.
All employees would have to be employed for at least four months to be eligible, including part-time workers. Seasonal workers and work-study students would not be eligible.
Over at the Demos Policy Shop, Amy Traub has posted a helpful analysis and a copy of her testimony before the Council. Paid sick leave is great policy. It improves public health, particularly combating the spread of illness via the restaurant industry. It protects sick workers from losing their jobs. It has no significant negative effects on employment or business development.
There are additional ways of strengthening paid sick leave. The most obvious one is to eliminate the exemption for business size. Any measure should also include vigorous protections against employer retaliation, as is the case in San Francisco and elsewhere. Because a final version of the measure has not yet passed as I write this, it is unclear if such protections will be part of the New York model.
In the San Francisco model, workers earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work. How about hybridizing the two systems to provide a baseline for part-time workers and better benefits for full-time workers? Workers would get a minimum of 5 days per year (like in New York) while also earning bonus sick leave based on time worked. In this hybrid system, sick leave would have to accrue at a slower rate than it does in the San Francisco model - maybe an extra hour for every 40 hours of work.
In a hybridized model, caps would become an issue. The San Francisco model caps total paid sick leave at 40 hours, although workers can deplete and restore this sick leave as much as necessary. Creating a measure with no cap or a cap of at least a month (160 hours) would allow workers to save up paid sick leave as insurance against surgeries or time-intensive illnesses. This would encourage more proactive health care, which would push total health care costs down. It would also prevent temporarily disabled workers from drowning in debt. To make a no-cap system less disruptive, businesses would be required to prepay sick leave into untaxed accounts as workers earn it. Leftover funds would then return to businesses when workers leave.
Finally, New York’s exemption for seasonal workers seems gratuitous when there is already a four-month waiting period. I don’t see what purpose it could serve other than as a loophole for worker exploitation.
What do you think? Should progressives focus on paid sick leave? Do you have any suggestions for my model? Please let me know.
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