Seattle Speaks for Itself: D.C. Corporate Group is dead wrong on paid sick leave

August 26, 2013 | Maggie Humphreys

letter to editor

Pen and Paper via Flickr

Last week, The Seattle Times published an op-ed by Michael Saltsman of the D.C. Employment Policies Institute asserting that a recent EPI study had found Seattle’s paid sick days law was hurting local businesses. As we pointed out at the time, EPI’s ‘report’ was basically an opinion survey of targeted opponents to sick days.

But Seattle has never been a city to sit quiet while a D.C mouthpiece purports to speak for our city and region. The Times published a handful of letters to the editor from supporters of paid sick days. Here’s what Seattle had to say about itself:

Leave especially important in food industry

Michael Saltsman’s critique of Seattle’s paid sick-leave law neglects to mention the public-health benefits of enabling people to stay home from work when they are sick. [“Guest column: Sick-leave pay not a cure-all,” Opinion, Aug. 20.]

Everyone can agree that restaurant workers should not to handle food when they are sick. But without paid leave, some workers simply cannot afford to stay home, no matter how ill they are. In fact, a recent survey of food-service workers found that in the past year alone, 5 percent worked while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea…(continue)

Kelly Richburg, Seattle

Institute works against labor interests

The research director of the Employment Policies Institute, author of the recent column on sick leave, is part of a conservative organization devoted to keeping wages as low as possible, and benefits nonexistent. [“Guest column: Sick-leave pay not a cure-all,” Opinion, Aug. 20.]

I commend The Seattle Times for allowing this column to be printed, thereby allowing the reader to better understand the forces working against all working women, men and children…(continue)

Mark Parrent, Bellevue

Consider the source

…As people read the recent guest column by Michael Saltsman, they should recognize the real agenda of ‘fiscally-conservative’ think tanks like the Employment Policies Institute, which is to preserve profitability on the backs of those who can’t help themselves. [“Sick-leave pay not a cure-all,” Opinion, Aug. 20.](continue)

Steve Hawley, Issaquah

EOI’s Marilyn Watkins, who helped lead the campaign for paid sick days in Seattle and is now advocating for paid leave across Washington, also submitted a letter to The Times which ran in Sunday’s print edition.

Sick-leave helps people

No one wants to be served by a sick waiter. No sick child should languish in the school nurse’s office because their parent can’t leave work.

Now, a year after Seattle’s sick-leave law went into effect, we can be confident that workers in our city at least have the option of staying home when the flu strikes.

Michael Saltsman’s swipe at Seattle’s law cites a survey of selected businesses, about one-third of whom believed sick leave would increase future costs. But he provides no evidence that it actually does.

The New York Times has described the Employment Policies Institute that did the survey as a “business-backed nonprofit that … argues against a higher minimum wage,” whose industry donors include chain restaurants.

It’s too early to have good data on the impacts of the sick-leave law on jobs and public health. Meanwhile, Seattle’s economy is the best in the state, and workers having reliable family income can only help.

Marilyn Watkins, policy director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, Seattle

Seattle’s local media also responded to the attacks.  Reporter David Goldstein, writing for The Stranger, called out EPI for its corporate backings and despicable funding source:

Although the Seattle Times describes EPI as a “nonprofit research organization,” it’s really anything but. In fact, EPI is nothing more than just one of about two dozen front groups created by DC-based corporate lobbyist Richard Berman, a Beltway-insider notorious for his take-no-prisoners tactics, and his all-out assaults on such enemies of freedom as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Humane Society.

The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog also picked up the story and checked in with local businesses to see how the sick-leave law had impacted their bottom lines. The answer? It hadn’t.

CHS talked to three Capitol Hill business owners who said implementing Seattle’s paid sick leave regulations hasn’t hurt their bottom line much at all…

Local chain MOD Pizza did not offer paid sick leave to its employees before the measure passed, but Chris Schultz, vice president of operations, said the ordinance caused the company to re-evaluate its policy. MOD Pizza now offers full paid sick leave to employees at all of its stores throughout the state of Washington…

If employees are comfortable in their working environment they will be less likely to abuse the policy, Schultz said.

“Folks want to come to work,” he said. “It’s not like they’re intentionally trying to take time off.”

“They like their jobs,” [Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream owner Molly Moon] Neitzel said. “We take care of them and in turn they’re great employees.”

As for the estimated 65.4% of businesses that do not offer paid sick leave to their employees?

“I want to know what those businesses are so I don’t go eat there,” Neitzel said.

 

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