In Oregon, a group of 15 lawmakers, business representatives, unions, and advocates have been meeting every week this month to discuss the details of a potential bill to guarantee that the state’s workers have access to paid sick days, according to The Oregonian.
The goal is for legislation to be introduced during the February 2014 session, but it’s not clear if the details will be worked out in time as the group has yet to come to an agreement. “It’s everything from ‘at what size business should this kick in?’ to ‘what should the waiting period be?’ and ‘how many hours should somebody be allowed to accrue?’” state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D) told The Oregonian. “We’re trying to get it down to fairly specific questions.”
The work group currently hashing it out was formed after a state House bill that would have allowed certain employees to accrue an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work with a cap at 56 hours a year failed in June. State lawmakers say there are about 600,000 workers in the state who don’t have access to paid sick days.
Portland, OR passed a paid sick days law in March, which goes into effect next year. The law requires companies with six or more employees to offer at least five days of paid sick leave a year to full-time workers, and those with five or fewer employees have to offer unpaid leave. The Oregonian notes that other cities in the state are considering similar bills.
If Oregon were to pass such a bill, it would be the second state to do so after Connecticut. Besides Portland, five other cities have such laws: Jersey City, NJ; New York City; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; and Washington, DC. Statewide efforts to pass paid sick leave are also underway in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont, and city-level campaigns are being pushed in Newark, NJ and Tacoma, WA, plus the fight to expand Washington, DC’s current policy to tipped workers.
Yet even with this momentum, the opposition is also growing. Ten states have already passed preemption laws that prevent cities and counties from enacting paid sick days laws, with seven passed this year alone and at least 14 introduced in statehouses around the country. Overall, 40 percent of private sector workers don’t have any access to paid sick days.
The big business backers of this counter movement, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and Restaurant Association, often claim that the costs of paid sick days would be too high for the country’s businesses. But evidence from current laws proves otherwise. Business growth has remained strong under Seattle’s law and job growth has been even stronger. Job growth has also stayed strong in San Francisco since it enacted its law and it also enjoys the support of its businesses. The policies in Washington, DC and Connecticut have been found to come at little cost to business with some big potential upsides. The expansion of DC’s law would bring an even bigger benefit for businesses, netting employers $2 million in savings even with the potential costs factored in.
No wonder, when the average employer loses $225 per worker each year thanks to the lost productivity from those who get sick and can’t take paid leave. Leave policies like paid sick days can reduce turnover and strengthen worker loyalty, saving businesses the costs of hiring and training new employees.