Last Friday, a dozen economists from around the state submitted a letter (.pdf) to the Seattle City Council, throwing their weight behind legislation that would give all Seattle workers access to paid sick leave. Now let's put aside arguments for a moment that keeping 40 percent of Seattle's workforce from taking paid sick time off is both a public health and social justice issue.
Here's what economists have to say about how this legislation will affect the business side of things:
"You will no doubt hear doomsday predictions from business lobbyists who oppose this measure," the letter states. "However, the real-life experience of firms that provide sick leave and a growing body of academic research show beyond any doubt that the costs of providing paid sick days are extremely small. The benefits—for employees, employers, and the public—are substantial. We urge you to pay close attention to evidence and data, not unfounded speculation about the impact this legislation will have on our economy."
The data they cite includes a new study from the Economic Policy Institute, which concludes that the loss of a few days’ pay for a low-wage worker can equal one month’s worth of groceries—which is why workers are willing to work sick and risk infecting their peers. The letter continues: "According to the same study, among workers who currently have access to five paid sick days, the industry-weighted average number of days taken is 2.41 days; if employees used this average number of paid sick days, the total cost would be 0.19 percent of sales."
Paid sick leave reduces the number of emergency room visits. It reduces employee turnover, thereby cutting the cost of replacing and retraining workers. And council member Nick Licata, who's sponsoring the legislation, notes that, "Seattle’s proposal includes feedback from key stakeholders and business leaders and is infused best practices from Milwaukee, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., cities that have already enacted similar legislation."
The council's Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee will discuss and vote on the paid sick leave ordinance tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Let's pass this goddamn thing already.