Support local governments’ right to enact basic workplace standards

Testimony | January 29, 2014 | By Marilyn Watkins

Executive Summary

Good afternoon. I’m Marilyn Watkins of the Economic Opportunity Institute and the Washington Work and Family Coalition here to testify in opposition to SB 6307 and in support of the ability of local governments to enact basic workplace standards, including minimum wages and paid sick leave.

Everyone gets sick.  Young children are especially likely to get sick when they attend day care or school, and they need a parent to stay home with them.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets paid sick leave. Without legal standards in place, 40% of private sector workers don’t get a single day of paid sick leave, including many in food service, retail, and other jobs with high levels of public contact. The lower someone’s earnings, the less likely they are to receive paid leave – among the lowest 10% of wage earners, 80% are denied sick leave.[i]

A study of food service workers published in the Journal of Food Protection found that one in five had worked while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea the previous year.[ii] The Boston Public Health Department concluded that lack of paid sick leave among workers and parents of public school children contributed to the spread of H1N1 in 2009.[iii] Now H1N1 is back.

Following the doctor’s orders to stay home when sick shouldn’t mean losing losing needed family income or risking your job.

Years of research show that employers also benefit from providing paid sick leave. Productivity and morale are higher. Turnover is lower.[iv]  Customers aren’t grossed out by sneezing, coughing workers.

Because most states have been slow to adopt sick leave standards, cities across the country have taken the lead. In 2013, 4 cities passed new sick leave laws and Washington, DC expanded its existing law.  Just this week Newark, New Jersey became the first city in 2014. There is no evidence that such laws negatively impact job and business growth in the places standards have been in effect the longest – San Francisco, Washington, DC, Seattle, and Connecticut.[v]

The most recent, economically sophisticated studies that have analyzed the effects of differing minimum wages over the past two decades show similar benefits to workers and employers from higher minimum wages, with no significant impact on employment numbers.[vi]

Our economy will continue to generate many lower wage jobs, in childcare, food service, retail, and other services. Basic workplace standards like paid sick leave and a strong minimum wage help make sure that every job boosts our economy rather than trapping families in poverty and insecurity.

Preempting the right of local governments in Washington to protect the health, safety and prosperity of their citizens and children is the wrong direction for our state.

I urge you to reject SB 6307, and instead enact HB 1313, enabling working families across our state to keep themselves and their kids healthy without risking their family economics.



[i] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employee benefits in the United States – March 2013,” http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ebs2.pdf.

[ii] Steven Sumner, Laura Green Brown, et al., “Factors Associated with Food Workers Working while Experiencing Vomiting or Diarrhea, Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 74, No 2., 2011, pp. 215-220.

[iii] Boston Public Health Commission, “The State of the H1N1 Pandemic: Boston,” PowerPoint presentation, January 11, 2010, http://www.bphc.org/Newsroom/Pages/TopStoriesView.aspx?ID=139.

[iv] Examples include: Christine Siegwarth Meyer, et al, “Work-Family Benefits: Which Ones Maximize Profits?” Journal of Managerial Issues, vol. XIII, No. 1, Spring 2001: 28-44; Jane Waldfogel, “The Impact of the Family Medical Leave Act,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, vol. 18, Spring 1999; Thomas E. Casey and Karen Warlin, “Retention and Customer Satisfaction,” Compensation & Benefits Review, May/June 2001, p. 27-30.

[v] Washington Work and Family coalition, “Paid Sick Leave Laws and Local Prosperity,” January 2014, http://waworkandfamily.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/psd-research.pdf.  Providing paid sick leave costs employers less than 1% of payroll. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Paid leave in private industry over the past 20 years,” August 2013, http://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-2/paid-leave-in-private-industry-over-the-past-20-years.htm.

[vi] Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester, and Michael Reich, “Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties,“ The Review of Economics and Statistics, November 2010, http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/REST_a_00039; Allegretto, Sylvia, Dube, Arindrajit, Reich, Michael, “Do Minimum Wages Really Reduce Teen Employment? Accounting for Heterogeneity and Selectivity in State Panel Data,” Industrial Relations, April 2011, http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/166-08.pdf; Dube, Lester, and Reich, “Do Frictions Matter in the Labor Market? Accessions, Separations and Minimum Wage Effects, ” October 12, 2010, http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/222-10.pdf.


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