According to one study, offering U.S. workers seven paid sick days a year would save the economy an estimated $160 billion annually in reduced turnover and increased productivity.
Fortunately, the push for paid sick leave has picked up steam. Since 2006, when San Francisco became the first city to pass sick-leave laws, Washington D.C., Seattle and Connecticut have enacted versions of this humane, common-sense legislation. A few weeks ago, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to require paid sick leave, thanks to the testimony and advocacy of Rizzio and others. The Philadelphia City Council has passed similar legislation, which Mayor Michael Nutter threatens to veto.
Despite some critics' predictions, these laws haven't brought businesses to their knees. After Connecticut passed its sick-leave law, employment rose in the most affected industries. The same happened in San Francisco, where employment in the service and hospitality sectors grew faster than it did in neighboring counties, and where, during the Great Recession, more than 80 percent of employers surveyed said the law had no impact on their bottom line.
The latest — and sweetest — illustration of this movement's momentum comes from my home town of New York, where City Council Speaker and Democratic mayoral front-runner Christine Quinn had refused to bring a paid-sick-leave bill to a vote. For three straight years.
Some 39 of the 51 council members, a clear majority, supported the bill, which would have required businesses with more than five employees to offer five days of paid sick leave. Nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers — including 60 percent of Republicans — said they would go even further and require employers to provide seven days of paid sick leave.
Yet Quinn, eager to court the city's pro-business elite — and having accepting $370,000 in campaign contributions from sick-leave opponents — held out, insisting she was protecting small businesses in a shaky economic recovery.