Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Abra-ca-dabra arithmetic from corporate lobbyists won’t cancel paid sick days

Ellen Bravo

Paid sick days are good for our economy, according to numerous studies by seasoned economists. That’s why Americans in cities and states across the country from all parts of the political spectrum support this policy.

The same policy is under fierce attack by big corporate lobbyists, whose job it is to protect the top 1% of society – folks who, of course, already have paid sick days. In their attempts to scare small business owners and the public, the corporate lobbyists have created a whole new math system to justify their position.

The abra-ca-dabra arithmetic practiced by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), one of the Big Six corporate lobbies, is simply about pulling numbers out of a hat and daring to call it economics.

The NFIB is currently peddling a so-called “study” in Massachusetts, proclaiming that proposed legislation allowing workers to earn paid sick days in that state would cost huge amounts and be a disaster for small business. Legitimate research estimates the legislation would save businesses in that state upwards of $348 million and save hospital emergency rooms another $22.7 million, including $13.4 million in taxpayer-funded public health savings.

As economists have pointed out about a similar tome produced in Philadelphia, the NFIB document rests on incorrect facts and flawed assumptions. Here are a few examples:

  • False Assumption #1: The NFIB assumes each employee who gains paid sick days will use every day provided to them. The document’s own footnote acknowledges that the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Center for Disease Control estimate much smaller numbers of usage – 3 days (BLS) or 3.8 (CDC). Also, in a random sample of employees in San Francisco, which has had similar requirements in place since 2007, employees used a median of 3 days per year. Researchers say workers tend to view the time as an insurance policy, saving the days they earn for when they may need them most.
  • False Assumption #2: The NFIB includes in additional wages the cost of health insurance – but those costs are fixed and do not vary with work hours. They will be unaffected by new PSD coverage.
  • Convenient Oversight: Perhaps most outrageous is the refusal of the NFIB to look at the other side of the equation – how much employers save from increased productivity, lower absenteeism when co-workers don’t catch the sick employee’s germs, reduced turnover when workers aren’t fired for following a doctor’s orders. A 2009 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research projects s a $348 million annual benefit to Massachusetts employers if the earned paid sick days law were instituted.

Who does the NFIB really work for? While the group claims to represent Mom and Pop shops, it has never lobbied on behalf of bills small businesses really need – such as halting the expansion of big-box competitors that drive out Main Street businesses, or curbing the many tax policies that local activists say give national retailers an unfair advantage over independent small companies.

In fact, the NFIB is underwritten by far-right groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. According to the Wall Street Journal, American Crossroads gave the NFIB a hefty $3.7 million before the 2010 election – money Rove’s group considered “well spent.”

If the NFIB cared about the economy and small businesses, they’d have to acknowledge that job retention policies like paid sick days help reduce unemployment and strengthen the economy. They’d recognize that jobs are lost when worker do NOT have paid sick days, as shown by a report from the National Opinion Research Center, which finds that 23% of workers are fired or threatened with being fired for taking time to care for personal or family illness.

And they’d admit that in San Francisco, which last year was named one of the best cities in the world to do business by PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than two in three businesses support the local law and six in seven report no negative impact on profitability.

You can call the latest output from the NFIB many things – distortions, misinformation, hocus pocus.

What you can’t call it is a study.

In these tough economic times, no one should have to lose income — or worse, lose their job — because they get sick, but this is just what happens all the time. Paid sick days is a commonsense measure that will help get our economy moving again by making sure hardworking men and women can hold onto their jobs, support their families and have money to spend to sustain local businesses.

Business owners across Massachusetts support paid sick days because it’s a good policy for their workers, their customers and their bottom lines. The NFIB is another corporate lobby that continues to show it is out of touch with business and the economy.

~by Ellen Bravo, cross-posted from the Family Values at Work Coalition

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