Connecticut Moves Forward on Landmark Workers’ Rights Bill

Last week, the Connecticut Senate approved landmark legislation (SB 913) to establish paid sick leave as a vital economic and health security measure. The bill is now before the House of Representatives, where it enjoys strong support. Governor Daniel Malloy has advocated the legislation throughout the session, and campaigned as a champion of the policy in both the primary and general elections last year. Enactment of SB 913 would set a precedent as the first state-wide law broadly granting workers the right to accrue paid time off.

Connecticut advocates and policymakers have trumpeted the importance of advancing policies that improve the economic security of working families, particularly now. Rep. Zeke Zalaski, Chair of the House Labor and Public Employees Committee emphasized the national importance of the bill, saying “this is a great opportunity for us to send a message to the rest of the country that we in Connecticut value our workers. This is a landmark bill that is as important as other precedent setting gains like child labor and civil rights laws.”  

“It will give some peace of mind for low wage service employees who are at risk of losing wages, or even their job, every time they get sick,” said Jon Green of Connecticut Working Familes, noting the basic standards of decency SB 913 guarantees workers. “It will allow working [parents] to stay home when their toddlers are sick instead of sending them to school.”

Despite a strong and growing body of evidence that the policy will actually be good for businesses, opposition by the business lobby has been intense because of the bill’s precedent-setting potential.  Relying on cookie-cutter arguments that paid sick leave will be a “job killer” and make Connecticut “uncompetitive” with neighboring states, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) and the Connecticut Restaurant Association (CRA) have ignored recent studies demonstrating that such claims are unsubstantiated. Those studies include:

  • An Economic Policy Institute (EPI)reportshowing that the direct costs of paid sick leave policies are miniscule, both compared to other major business costs and as a portion of total sales.
  • An Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) papershowing that SB 913 would reduce health care costs and significantly improve health care outcomes.
  • An IWPR surveyof San Francisco businesses and workers showing that the city’s paid sick leave law has neither been burdensome to business nor caused job losses.
  • A Connecticut Voices for Children (CVC) paperdemonstrating that the state’s tax rates are at worst on par with those of neighboring states, and the total tax burden for higher income earners in Connecticut is actually lower when all taxes are taken into account.

Connecticut Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams took the business lobby’s arguments in stride as examples of the tired "crying wolf" line of attack used in opposition to all manner of policies necessary for realizing the American dream and creating the middle class.  Child labor laws, the 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, and collective bargaining rights were all established for the first time, as Sen. Williams reminded, “in the depths of the Great Depression.”

The importance of Connecticut’s progress on paid sick days this year cannot be overemphasized, but the state is not alone in advancing workers’ rights. The California Assembly passed its own landmark bill extending basic labor protections to domestic workers (AB 889).  The vote sets the stage for California to be the second in as many years to do so.  New York enacted the nation’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights last year, correcting seventy years of injustice after domestic employees were left out of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1937 to appease pro-segregationist legislators who would not support extending workers’ rights to the then largely African-American workforce.

Full Resources from this Article

Connecticut Moves Forward on Landmark Workers’ Rights Bill

Progressive States Network - Blueprint for Economic Security: Ensuring Job Security by Protecting Workers
National Partnership for Women and Families - Briefing Book on Paid Sick Days
National Opinion Research Center - Paid Sick Days: Attitudes and Experiences
Cry Wolf Project - Exposing Myths About the Economy and Government:  Paid Sick Leave
Institute for Women’s Policy Research - San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: Outcomes for Employers and Employees
Institute for Women’s Policy Research - 44 Million U.S. Workers Lacked Paid Sick Days in 2010
Restaurant Opportunities Center - Serving While Sick: High Risks and Low Benefits for the Nation’s Restaurant Workforce, and Their Impact on the Consumer

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