The U.S. has the weakest labor protections in the industrialized world, and is the only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee workers some sort of paid sick leave. Lost productivity due to sick workers attending work and infecting other employees costs the U.S. economy $180 billion annually.
Yesterday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the Rebuild America Act, and one of its many provisions would ensure that all workers have access to paid sick days. Inevitably, proposals of this sort draw the ire of Big Business, which claims that every policy meant to aid workers will drive up costs and increase joblessness. But as David Madland noted yesterday, that simply isn’t the case:
The aftermath of the Great Recession has cultivated a fear that policies that support workers and their families will subsequently constrain business profitability and cause employers to lay off workers or close their doors entirely. Contrary to fears from the business community, the passage of paid sick days legislation in San Francisco (the first city to enact such a law) did not hamper job growth. In fact San Francisco created more jobs and experienced more economic growth after passing the law than the surrounding counties without such legislation.
According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, a lack of paid sick days led to millions of additional cases of H1N1 flu in 2009. Since the federal government hasn’t acted, several cities have passed paid sick day requirements of their own (though Republicans in Wisconsin overrode Milwaukee’s law last year). Harkin’s bill — in addition to its myriad other strong proposals — would end America’s shameful rein as the only developed nation that forces workers to choose between their health and their job.