Nevada LegislatureSocial Justice

What’s the Matter with Paid Sick Leave?

Polling done over the last two years shows broad support among Americans for guaranteed paid sick leave. Early results from cities that already have paid sick leave policies suggest this hasn’t forced businesses to close shop. So why is SB 196 considered one of the “controversial” bills in the Nevada Legislature this spring?

After then-President Barack Obama proposed a national paid sick leave guarantee for American workers in January 2015, Lake Research released a poll (commissioned by the Make It Work Campaign) showing 88% of Americans support this. Since then, support for paid sick leave hasn’t let up. According to a Pew Research Center study released last week, 85% of Americans support paid sick leave for workers’ own conditions and 67% of Americans support paid sick leave for workers caring for ill family members.

As some conservatives have begun to come around to support some kind of paid sick leave policy, State Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford (D-Spring Valley) cited his polling data in explaining the broad, bipartisan support for what he’s placed into SB 196.

Photo by Andrew Davey
“There are a large number of Nevadans who believe paid sick leave is a worker’s right.” – Senator Aaron Ford

As Ford presented to the Senate Commerce, Labor, and Energy (CLE) Committee this morning, he and others who testified in favor of SB 196 also explained also how this policy can help employers and employees. He noted how a similar Connecticut paid sick leave law didn’t “kill jobs”, as opponents claimed in 2012.

Before Chris Daly moved to Nevada, he was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He followed up with an explanation of the 2007 San Francisco paid sick leave law that he spearheaded. Opponents there also claimed a paid sick leave guarantee would put employers out of business. Instead, 99% of San Francisco employers with 20 or more workers were offering paid sick leave by 2009. In addition, the majority of employers did not report lower profits because of the law. On top of that, San Francisco has one of the nation’s strongest regional economies.

“We see an increase in productivity. We see things working in a better way. […] We see things improving for the economy.” – Chris Daly

Senator Ford came to the committee with a mock-up, or a proposed amendment to his bill. Ford explained how the mock-up integrated feedback he received from the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce on concerns they and the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce had regarding the bill. In response, only businesses with 50 or more workers will be required to offer paid sick leave. Ford also added a provision to aid employers in cracking down on workers who abuse the paid sick leave benefit.

Despite Ford’s attempt to “reach out” and “accommodate”, the two major Chambers of Commerce and the Retail Association of Nevada still testified against the bill. When Senators Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) and Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) pressed the business lobbyists on why they oppose even an amended SB 196 that takes into account their concerns, they stated their opposition to any mandate to provide a benefit.

At the end of the hearing, Ford delivered his rebuttal. “It’s not as if I don’t understand the issue.” Ford explained how his own wife will be affected by SB 196 as an entrepreneur, then reiterated how the Las Vegas Metro Chamber’s lobbyist approached him with proposed amendments that were presented to him as what they and the Reno-Sparks Chamber can accept in SB 196.

“You can be both pro-employer and pro-employee.” – Senator Aaron Ford

How can a potential policy solution that’s supported by a supermajority of voters be considered “controversial” in the Nevada Legislature? That can happen when opponents manage to brand the bill with an unsavory label, such as “anti-business”. Ford closed the hearing by reminding his Senate colleagues that even a majority of Republican voters support some form of a paid sick leave guarantee. We’ll see if that plea can guarantee additional votes for SB 196 in the Legislature.

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