March 27, 2012
Employers, workers, and economists rallied and lobbied at the State House in support of legislation that would offer sick leave to the estimated 1 million Massachusetts employees who don’t have it currently.
The economists said paid sick leave makes economic sense, the workers said it would provide them with job security, and some small business owners insisted it’s the right thing to do.
“Dean’s Beans only has 10 employees, but for over a decade we’ve had earned sick time,” said Dean Cycon, owner of the coffee shop in Orange. “We’re surviving, we’re thriving. If Dean’s Beans can do it, Dunkin’ Donuts can do it.”
Officials at Dunkin’ Donuts, which operates franchise outlets, could not be reached for comment.
In a letter to lawmakers, 47 economists from universities across the state urged passage of the sick leave bill. They said it would reduce unemployment, cut emergency room costs, and provide much needed relief to those workers who often have to make a choice between taking care of themselves and getting paid.
If passed, the bill would require companies with more than 10 employees to provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year (1 hour for every 30 worked). Companies with between six and 10 employees would be required to provide up to 40 paid hours of sick leave per year. Companies with fewer than six employees would be required to offer their workers up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per year.
Victoria Entzminger, a personal care attendant from Boston and a member of SEIU Local 1199, said she got sick last year and tried to keep working even though her doctor prescribed multiple prescriptions for antibiotics. She eventually wound up in the emergency room. “I had to show up for work, because I depend on that income,” she said.
Tammy Hale, a school nurse from Worcester, said she sees children every day in school who should be home in bed but are at school because their parents have to go to work. “It’s not because they have irresponsible parents who don’t know they’re sending a sick child to school,” she said. “Taking the day off means losing pay that puts food on the table, and in the worst case, taking the day off could cost them their jobs.”
Earlier this month, the National Federation of Independent Businesses came out against the proposed legislation, claiming that the measure would cost Massachusetts 12,000 jobs over the next few years.
But Sen. Dan Wolf of Harwich said at a rally on the State House steps that the legislation will benefit businesses. As the founder and CEO of Cape Air, Wolf said his company has offered paid sick leave since it was launched with just six workers; the firm now has more than 1,000. “I can tell you as a business guy that this is only positive,” Wolf said. “The best way to have healthy businesses here is to have the best workers in this state. And the best way to do that is to pass this law.”