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Worker making pizza in a restaurant.
Do you want sneeze with that?
There's good news and bad news for low-wage workers in Vermont. The good news is that the state's legislature appears ready to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years. The bad news is that a paid sick leave law is less likely to pass.

Vermont's current minimum wage is $8.73 an hour; under the proposed legislation, it would increase to $9.19 in 2015, $9.65 in 2016, and then to $10.10 in 2017. That would mean a raise for more than 16,000 workers:

The state Labor Department estimated that 16,499 jobs in Vermont in 2012 paid less than $9 an hour, a sizable number of them in retail trade, accommodations and food service. A recent study done for the Legislature shows that 67 percent of those earning less than $12.50 an hour in Vermont are over age 30.
As for a proposal requiring paid sick leave for all the state's workers:
[Gov. Peter] Shumlin called paid sick leave “conceptually a very good idea,” but said having the state require it is a public policy that has poorly vetted while raising the minimum wage is a familiar concept.
Poorly vetted perhaps in the sense that there's more business opposition to it, but paid sick leave as a policy is already working well in San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Connecticut, and has recently been passed in New York City, Newark and Jersey City. Plus, you know, most of America's peer nations have long had paid sick leave policies. So as a matter of policy rather than American politics, it's actually very well vetted. Which does not stop businesses from screaming at the prospect; it's just that it should help give Democrats the strength to ignore the screaming.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 11:20 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Massachusetts (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Munchkn, Youffraita, llywrch, wishingwell, SGA

    Sick leave has gone nowhere in the legislature, not getting out of committee in the House despite years of trying by its sponsors. This year it will be on the ballot and will have to be explained to the voters.

    “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people... And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

    by fenway49 on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 12:48:49 PM PDT

    •  It's a public health issue. Paid sick days cut (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      disease transmission in the workplace (and, I bet, on the T and anywhere else people cluster) and the overall time lost for illness in a workplace.  

      Here's a link to one example of a study on this issue:

      •  You don't have to tell me! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'm working on the ballot campaign. I've tried to tell people exactly that but, surprisingly, a lot of voters here don't seem swayed. They seem more worried that -- heaven forfend -- a low-wage worker somewhere might get a "free" day off.

        I generally tell them that it has not been abused in CT. I resist the temptation to ask if they ever "call out sick" when they weren't sick, and if so, why they think they're special.

        “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people... And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

        by fenway49 on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 07:28:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sounds like I was preaching to the choir! Still, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I really don't get why people think it's a good idea for sick people to wait tables, cook food, care for elderly shut-ins, etc.  The best I can come up with is that it stems from a scarcity mentality - if someone else gets a sick day, they're taking it from me.  Penny-wise and pound-foolish.

          •  Too much concern for employers (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            When out collecting signatures I found a great many supportive people. There were others who had to be cajoled just to sign, and most of them seemed to think that small businesses would suffer if their workers had sick time.

            Funny thing is, our ballot initiative allows for unpaid leave if the employer has 10 workers or fewer, but one guy said to me, "So, if I build my business and get to Worker #11, I'm screwed." I said, "No, you're not screwed. You'll just have some employees who take a couple of days off when they're sick instead of spreading their germs to the rest of you. That doesn't destroy a business."

            I also tried to convince professional types that the barista coming to work sick might get THEM sick. Which would suck for them. Plus, they do have sick leave. Is it better that they call out sick than if the coffee shop had a different barista come in one morning?

            “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people... And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

            by fenway49 on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 09:00:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Over the last fifty years I've watched every (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, llywrch, wishingwell, fenway49

    frickin' benefit largely gained by unions frittered away slowly
    to almost nothing.

    When I was a kid my uncles had sick leave, good wages, complete health- and dental care, expense allowance, double and triple pay and "golden time," and on and on.

    Now if some benefits are inquired about, you're told, "What's the matter, you feel entitled to this stuff?" People are actually cowed.

    The conspiracy among the ruling class of this country has been complete and extremely effective.

    "The soil under the grass is dreaming of a young forest, and under the pavement the soil is dreaming of grass."--Wendell Berry

    by Wildthumb on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 07:28:55 PM PDT

  •  Strategically, this would be sold better if... (0+ / 0-)

    ....we stopped talking about sick leave and instead talked  about paid time off.

    "So, am I right or what?"

    by itzik shpitzik on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 07:30:57 PM PDT

  •  So is there a vote scheduled? (0+ / 0-)
  •  D'ya want sneeze with that is right. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch, fenway49

    How about getting coughed in the face?

    Look, I get 40 hours of sick days (at reduced pay) per year, and am glad for them.

    But every corporation that is averse to paid sick leave should be forced to refuse sick time (at any pay) to all salaried workers as well.

    Let's see how quickly they'd change that policy.

    English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

    by Youffraita on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 07:46:05 PM PDT

  •  Should Be Democratic Party Agenda Items ? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Since sick leave being REQUIRED BY LAW is not the norm in this country, (though it should be) , why isn't this a "front and center" issue of the Democratic Party ?
    And there is the related issue of "annual leave, also known as paid vacation time. I think companies in many European countries are required BY LAW to give workers a certain amount of annual vacation leave.

    But American companies are NOT REQUIRED BY FEDERAL LAW to do that.

    I'm not sure that ANY of our fifty states have laws that require that.

    It seems to me that if American workers cannot rely on the Democratic Party to stand up and fight for these two important benefits, to make them mandatory by law .... then who will ?

    Most people already DO get some vacation leave. But that is strictly at the discretion of an employer. And it shouldn't be at their discretion. Employers, by law, don't have to give even ONE paid day of vacation leave or ONE paid sick leave day.

    And yet I never here any liberal Democrat talking about that at election time.

    Doesn't that seem strange ?

    Aren't the Dems supposed to be the party of working men and women ? The party of the 99% ?

    "Love Is Why We're Here"

    by Paniolo Joe on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 08:28:37 PM PDT

    •  Some politicians fighting for it (0+ / 0-)

      In Massachusetts we have two ballot initiatives, one to raise the minimum wage and the other to provide earned sick leave. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey were the first signatures on those initiatives and have been pushing the cause.

      State Treasurer Steve Grossman, one of five Democrats running for governor this year, has long been an advocate of sick leave. He was the first witness to testify for it in the legislature, eight years ago, and kept an employee at his family business who fell ill on the payroll for months of recovery even though it wasn't legally required. Grossman has made the issue a recurring theme in his campaign (he says if it isn't law by the time he's governor it will be the first bill he sends to the legislature) and the other Democratic candidates support it as well.

      “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people... And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 09:08:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You're seriously talking about paid sick leave? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wishingwell, fenway49

    It's 2014.  Most of the developed world settled this in the 1960's.

  •  There's the public health argument for sick leave (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wishingwell, SGA, fenway49

    That food handlers & care givers should have sick leave: as the picture above indicates, do you want these people spreading their sicknesses because they can't afford to miss the time?

    Requiring a minimum of 6 days a year will, at most, increase employee pay by 2.5% -- assuming these folks take every sick day they're entitled to. (Funny thing about sick time -- many people don't use it all. Especially if they can carry it over to the next year.) And with increased risk of communicable diseases -- remember all the news about avian flu a few years ago? -- this would help limit how fast any disease spread.

    Yeah, those who hate their fellow Americans the Republicans will complain that this is putting the cost unfairly on businessmen. The people this would benefit tend to be the people making minimum wage, so this is the equivalent of giving, at most, 18 cents an hour more. (For tipped workers, this would be less than 6 cents. How many restaurants will this force to close again?) But it makes a small mend to the safety net that has been shredded over the last few decades.

    •  Yes and doctors always recommend when a patient (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      has the flu, to stay home, drink fluids, rest. These dioctors on different programs on TV tell people to stay home when they have the flu so not to spread it.
      I have seen commericals telling people to stay home if they have flu or contagious illness so not to spread it.

      It is better in the long run for the employer to give his workers sick time. This way, his workers are not coming to work with the flu and spreading it to all the other employees.  

      If those with the flu come to work with the flu , they are going to spread it to other workers and it has this domino effect of all or most of the employees getting sick and it goes on and on.

      Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at

      by wishingwell on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 04:25:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is the average workplace headcount higher (0+ / 0-)

    in San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C than it is is White River Junction, Brattleboro, or Burlington?

    The difficulty comes when a five-person shop or office  is down to two because of the flu.  That's maybe a tougher workday problem than a 30 person shop or office dropping to 25.

    Denying paid sick leave isn't a solution, of course. But I can understand Shumlin and other Vermonters being skeptical that success in New York City means no problems in Rutland.

    •  Giving a worker and EXTRA day off for the flu cuts (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elwood Dowd

      the amount of flu in the workplace.  If the concern is that they'll be so short-staffed, then paid sick leave is the smarter policy.  (see my earlier reply for the link).

      I once worked with a person who was very conscientious, very hard-working, and very productive.  But, when this person came to work sick, the next week everyone else would be out sick. All that extra productivity was just cancelled out.  

      •  Agreed - (0+ / 0-)

        And I'm guessing most employers are concerned more about workers taking sick leave when they're not sick.

        Experience from another place showing that hasn't been much of a problem is helpful.  But the example place needs to be closer to the conditions in Vermont.

  •  "Do You Want Sneeze with That?" Heh! n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

    by midnight lurker on Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 07:10:02 AM PDT

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