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March 27, 2012

BOSTON – Over 45 Massachusetts economists today announced their support for earned sick time legislation as dozens of supporters rally at the statehouse urging action on the bill. In a letter to legislators, economists from the state’s leading academic institutions voiced strong support for the bill based on the economic benefits for companies, taxpayers, and workers throughout the state.

Randy Albelda, an economics professor at UMASS Boston, praised the legislation for protecting the interests of businesses and saving the Commonwealth money. “By reducing turnover, keeping employees healthier and more productive, and increasing morale, business are the true beneficiaries,” Albelda said. “Workers who go to the emergency room because they can’t visit their primary care doctors during regular business hours have enormous healthcare costs. This bill is good for our economy and it will save Massachusetts taxpayers money.”

Today’s rally, planned for the steps of the Statehouse at noon, highlights the growing support for the legislation that will help over 1 million Massachusetts workers who currently are unable to take a single sick day to care for themselves or their families. The rally, organized by the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition, features workers, employers, nurses, and elected officials throughout Massachusetts who are urging the legislature to pass the bill so that when workers are sick they will not lose pay – or worse, their jobs.

“As a school nurse, it heartbreaking when parents come in apologizing for bringing their child into school sick,” said Tami Hale, a school nurse in Woburn. “These parents have to choose between losing pay and staying home to care for them, so the children suffer because they have to spend the day in school when they should be home in bed. A parent should be able to stay home with their child without risking their job.”

State Senator Dan Wolf, a sponsor of the legislation, sees the value of earned sick days both as an elected official and a business owner. His company, Cape Air, started with 6 employees, has grown to 1,000, and has always included earned sick leave for all employees. “As a matter of fundamental fairness, to improve public health, and to offer help to those most hurt in this difficult economy, earned sick leave is the right policy,” said Wolf.

“We have had a paid sick leave policy here at Dean’s Bean Organic Coffee Company for over a decade. We have never experienced negative consequences from this policy,” said Dean Cycon, Founder and CEO of Deans Beans Organic Coffee Company in Orange.  “On the contrary, it has led to a healthier, more committed and more efficient workforce. Small businesses like mine have nothing to fear from paid sick leave. It is the right thing to do.”

The legislation is gaining momentum in the legislature and is currently in the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. The bill provides an exemption for “mom and pop” shops while ensuring job protection for their employees who need to take sick time. Seasonal employers are exempt from the legislation and companies that already provide time off to their employees consistent with the provisions of the amended bill will not have to change their policies.

“I run my business in partnership with my employees, and offering sick time is a way to ensure that they are as committed to making my business successful as I am,” said David Gardner, owner of Boyd’s Direct in Woburn. “I provide sick time because it’s the right thing to do- for my employees and for my bottom line. I’m amazed that this isn’t standard procedure for all businesses.”

In Massachusetts, about one-third of the workforce is without the benefit of earning any sick time. Across the country, cities and states have been adopting paid sick days policies to help improve public health and bolster the economic recovery. San Francisco has had a paid sick days law for four years and was rated by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2011 as one of the top cities in the world to do business.

“Earned sick time is good for Massachusetts, good for business, and good for employees who need to balance the needs of their health, their family and their jobs,” said Elizabeth Toulan, coordinator of the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition. “We urge the legislature to vote for the earned paid sick time bill now to help workers and protect jobs.”

To read the economists’ letter, click here.