Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Boxing in the Big Apple: SF Chamber of Commerce delivers knockout blow to opponents of paid sick days

The Wall Street Journal examines a budgetary boxing match between opponents and advocates of legislation to ensure New York City workers can earn paid sick days on the job. The question: How much will it cost? In one corner: the New York City Chamber of Commerce, which says the measure will cost billions. In the other: the legislation’s advocates and supporters. Their estimates are less than 10% of the Chamber’s low-end estimate.

In early rounds the Chamber comes out swinging, estimating the bill cost to NYC businesses at $3 to $3.5 billion per year. Quick jabs from businesses owners like Marc Murphy, who says it would cost his company $200,000 a year, seem to put paid sick days supporters on their heels.

But they battle back, citing a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report from 2009, which estimates the average of cost of sick leave per hour in the private sector was just 23 cents. As the bell rings, they land a stinging blow to the restaurant and service industry — the group most vehemently opposed to the legislation — by noting their costs are even lower: just 8 cents per hour.

It’s a short fight with no definitive winner, so the Journal calls in a referee: the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which also (unsuccessfully) opposed similar legislation in that city a few years ago. Their verdict: After three years of living and working with a minimum paid sick days standard, the S.F. Chamber cannot find any strong opposition among it members — even during the Great Recession.

According to S.F. Chamber Senior Vice President Jim Lazarus, the burden on business has been minimal:

“The biggest impact was on small retailers and the restaurant industry,” he says. “It has not been a huge issue that we have heard from our members about.”

The WSJ writes:

“Businesses in San Francisco are not quiet when local laws hit their bottom line. City mandates for minimum wage and health-care coverage have drawn yowls of pain from members of the business group, Lazarus says. But compliance with the sick-leave law hasn’t not galvanized a similar level of opposition from San Francisco employers. ‘I don’t think it’s quite on the minds of employers,’ he says.”

Score this bout a unanimous victory for workers and their families.

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