Friday, September 9, 2011

Seattle Sick Leave To Pass on Monday

A few months back I posted a story about how the city of Seattle was considering mandating that employers who have operations within the city limits must provide a certain number of paid sick days. At the time it was only a proposal, and it wasn’t even certain there were enough votes to see it through.

The proposal was to force Seattle-area businesses to provide 5, 7 and up to 9 days of paid sick days. The sliding scale was to be based on the size of the business, with the larger the number of employees, the more paid sick days that would be required for the business to provide to the employees.

It now looks like the City Council has enough votes to make this a reality as six council members have stated they will support passage of the ordinance.

The Seattle City Council will vote at 2 p.m. Monday on a bill to require paid sick leave at all businesses with at least five full-time employees. Businesses with the equivalent of:

5 to 49 full-time employees would have to provide at least five days of paid sick per year. Sick leave would accrue at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked.

50 to 249 employees would have to provide at east seven days paid sick leave per year. Sick leave would accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.

250 or more employees would have to provide at least nine days sick leave per year. Sick leave would accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked

Businesses less than 2 years old would be exempt. There would be a six-month waiting period before workers could start using their accrued paid time off (Source: The Seattle Times)

I still have an issue with a City Council dictating how a business is to be run and the benefits offered by those businesses. In a sense, this makes all employees part of a de-facto union, although there is no bargaining between the “union” and the employer. While unions do have some power, especially when they go on strike, they don’t have absolute power to dictate to businesses. There is some give and take between the employees and the employers. The City Council has completely skipped this give and take. Given the nature of City Council and the great Seattle area, this is not really surprising.

In the original Seattle Times article there were some quotes from folks that supported this measure including a small businesswoman;

Makini Howell, who runs the small vegan eateries Hillside Quickie and Plum Bistro, said she supports the legislation, because she doesn’t want her employees handling food while sick.

“All of us get sick. I can afford losing good employees,” she said. She added: “I don’t want to serve H1N1 with your fries.” (Source: Seattle PI)

My response back to her is that if she wants to offer up paid sick leave for her employees, then there is nothing stopping her. As far as I am aware, there is no Seattle city ordinance that says you cannot provide sick leave if you want. Why these people feel they have to force others is beyond me.

In a second post I mentioned that rather than using a blunt object (city ordinance) it might actually be better if they tried to get these businesses to initiate paid sick days voluntarily, which I suggested in an earlier post. What is wrong with using a carrot? Could none of these people on the council come up with some sort of incentive to offer paid sick leave, and then highlight them as a “preferred Seattle business”? I know none of my liberal readers will think this ordinance as forcing a business to do something, since it is all for the common good. But when you boil down the basics, this is forcing a business to do the City Council’s bidding through force of the law.

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