Senator Millett is anti-business, anti-prosperity and anti-freedom. She continues, in her position as an elected official, to seek to use the power of the government to impose greater burdens on businesses in Maine who are still struggling to overcome the economic malaise of the last ten years.
Why do Maine people struggle from an economic standpoint? Because people like Senator Millett use their power to drive away businesses who might come here with bad economic policies.
Sen. Millett presents universal sick leave bill to Labor Committee
AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, would create universal sick leave in Maine, including paid sick leave for roughly 230,000 Mainers who work at large companies.
“Everyone gets sick, but without sick leave, workers are forced to choose between their health and their incomes,” said Sen. Millett during a public hearing for the bill before the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.
“Access to sick leave, as would be guaranteed by this piece of legislation, ensures that no Mainer has to choose between their health and their economic security. It guarantees in a state that values families, no mom or dad is punished for choosing to care for their sick child, or that no child is punished for taking the time necessary to care for a sick parent,” said Sen. Millett.
The bill — LD 1159 “An Act To Support Healthy Workplaces and Healthy Families by Providing Paid Sick Leave to Certain Employees” — would require employers to allow their employees to accrue sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employees would be able to use sick leave to care for themselves or immediate family members, or to take time off if they or members of their family were victims of domestic or sexual abuse.
Companies with 50 or more employees would be required to offer paid sick leave, while companies with fewer than 50 employees would be required to offer sick leave without pay.
Sick leave is a benefit take for granted among many white-collar workers, but for many Mainers and in many industries it is unheard of. Nationally, low-income workers – including food service, personal health care and child care workers – are among the least likely to have paid sick leave. Less than one of every three workers who earn $19,000 or less per year have access to paid sick leave, compared to more than 80 percent of workers who make $65,000 or more per year.
From a public health standpoint, a lack of sick leave means illness lasts longer and spreads further and faster. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 2.5 million cases of foodborne illness per year were caused by sick restaurant workers contaminating food while they were at work — and more than half of all norovirus outbreaks can be traced back to sick food service workers. Parents without sick leave are more likely to send their sick kids to school or daycare, putting other families at risk of falling ill, rather than miss a day’s pay.
The Maine Women’s Lobby, Maine Center for Economic Policy, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Education Association, Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness all testified in favor of Sen. Millett’s bill.
Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, said the need for sick leave was driven home by personal experience.
“My father, weakened by congestive heart failure, was able to remain home in the final years of his life with the direct support of home health aides,” she said. “He was greatly endangered, however, when one of the direct care workers arrived for her shift with a case of pneumonia. She did not mean my father harm; the pay for that overnight shift represented a week’s worth of groceries. Unfortunately, when my parents pointed out to the agency the danger of having an ill employee present, she was fired. This is but one example of the impossible position workers are put in every day because they cannot earn one paid sick day.”
Four states, 17 cities, one county and the District of Columbia have established a right to paid sick leave. While several big business organizations testified against Sen. Millett’s bill, experience in cities and states with paid sick leave shows the laws work for businesses as well as workers.
The cost of replacing workers — advertising job openings, interviewing, and training new employees — is very high. Not only that, but studies have shown that the decreased productivity that results from people working sick costs our economy $160 billion per year. And when San Francisco instituted paid sick leave, more than 70 percent of employers reported no impact on profitability — proving that you can treat your workers right and run a profitable business too.
The Maine Chamber of Commerce was one business group that opposed Sen. Millett’s bill. However, a poll by Luntz Global of U.S. Chamber members revealed that while the Chamber officially opposes sick leave, its members don’t. Seventy percent of the 1,000 Chamber members polled said they supported paid sick time, in addition to supporting higher wages and expanded parental leave.
The bill faces further action in Committee, and votes in the House and Senate.