California Leads America With Paid Sick Days

Jerry BrownIt is a historic day. The governor of California (My governor!) Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1522 (AB1522). It requires that employers provide at least three paid sick days for employees each year. It applies to pretty much all workers: anyone who works more than seven days in a calendar year. Employees must accrue at least one hour of sick pay for every 30 hours of work. It’s a very good law. But what’s pathetic is that California becomes the first state in the union to create such a law. We are not just the only advanced economy to be without such mandates — many second and even third world countries have us beat in this regard.

One thing amazes me when I talk to people of all political stripes. Most people think the forty hour work week is just a given. They may know that people in the 19th century worked really long hours, but they figure it all just worked itself out. Even worse, people think weekends have always existed — at least Sundays off. But even that is largely a myth. Regardless, we have the system we have today because workers demanded them. If we currently worked 80 hours per week and seven days per weeks, conservatives would be apoplectic if anyone argued that this was wrong. I know, because when I talk to people about reducing what we define as full time today, people treat me like I’m crazy. They just can’t understand it, even though many tribal communities worked only a couple of hours per day. Modern Americans have this idea that the forty hour work week was brought down by Moses on stone tablets.

Connecticut has a similar sounding law, but it does not apply to companies with less than 50 employees, nor does it apply to manufacturing companies. This is kind of like a law that specifically applies to no one — fine tuned to uselessness by the business community. (But I’m sure among those employees who do get it, it is much appreciated.) Not surprisingly, the business community is freaking out. They say it will be a “job killer.” But I guarantee you: this very minor requirement will not kill jobs at all. This is equivalent to raising the $9.00 California minimum wage by 30¢.

I’m glad that California brushed these concerns aside. I wonder when, as a country, we are going to get past the “job killer” claims of the business community. This is hauled out for any and every policy they don’t like. The best example of this is the business community’s claims over the last six years that environmental regulations would kill jobs. I discussed this last year, Environmentalism Good for Economy Right Now. We should never listen to businesses when they talk about creating jobs. Businesses are not interested in creating jobs. In fact, they work very hard to not create jobs, so they can maximize profits. If you have any questions, just check out Nick Hanauer’s TED talk:

Our country can’t seem to do even the smallest things for workers. And even New York is determined to elect a corrupt corporate tool as its governor. Again. It is good that we have California. In general, the states are laboratories of anti-democracy. But California continues to be an exception to that. And in 50 years, when even Fox News takes a week of sick leave as God given, remember who really gave it to you: California. And remember why: because the legislature has been overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats. And remember why: because the people voted for that. Some day the rest of the country may wake up.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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