By Bryce Covert
– On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Rep. Seth Grove (R) introduced a bill in the state House that would block cities and local governments in the state from implementing paid sick days bills or other forms of paid leave that aren’t already guaranteed at the state level. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Labor and Industry.
The bill states, “A political subdivision of this Commonwealth may not enact or administer a mandate requiring an employer to provide an employee or class of employees with vacation or other forms of leave from employment, paid or unpaid, that is not required by Federal or State law.” This would essentially mean that any local push for paid sick leave policies or other leave policies would be completely banned.
In response to the bill, Marianne Bellesorte, senior director of policy of Pathways PA, said in an email, “Preemption laws limit the rights and voices of voters and local lawmakers. In cities and counties, we know how to determine what’s best for our local communities and work places.” She also noted that “voters statewide are mobilizing in opposition to this proposal.”
As the push for paid sick days legislation moves forward in states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont and cities such as Newark, NJ and Tacoma, WA, so too does the counter movement to block these bills in the first place. A similar bill to Pennsylvania’s was introduced in North Carolina in August, and in June Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a statewide ban that was backed by big business. These laws have been introduced in at least 14 different state legislatures, not including Pennsylvania, and enacted in eight: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, seven paid sick days laws are currently in place across the country.
The bills have been fueled by the efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a coalition of big business interests and conservative legislators, which handed out model legislation at a national meeting in 2011. And many of the lawmakers who have introduced these bills are members of ALEC, including Rep. Grove, who has introduced model ALEC legislation before.
Opponents of paid sick days often claim that they will be an unbearable cost on businesses, but the evidence suggest otherwise. Job growth has been stronger under Seattle’s law and business growth has also remained strong. San Francisco’s has also spurred job growth and enjoys strong business support. Washington DC’s and Connecticut’s have come at little cost. On the other hand, the average employer loses $225 per employee each year due to the lost productivity of sick workers who don’t have access to paid leave. The laws are also effective at curbing outbreaks such as the flu.