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Why do business groups want to force sick people to go to work?

This is bad for society.

The city’s new ordinance mandating that most private businesses in Austin provide paid sick leave to employees — heralded by supporters as the most progressive labor policy in Texas when it won approval two months ago — is facing a legal challenge to prevent it from ever taking effect.

Proponents of Austin’s sick-leave rules, which are slated to begin Oct. 1, already faced the likelihood that some conservative state lawmakers would try to supersede the city’s authority by filing bills to overturn the new ordinance when the Legislature convenes again in January.

But a coalition of business organizations, including the Texas Association of Business and the National Federation of Independent Business, are aiming to render the rules toothless regardless. The group — with legal representation from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank — filed a lawsuit in Travis County state District Court on Tuesday, seeking temporary and permanent injunctions against city enforcement.

“We needed to move quickly and stop any bleeding that might occur from this ordinance,” said Jeff Moseley, chief executive of the Texas Association of Business, which is the state’s most powerful business lobbying group. “It’s overreaching (by the city government), and it’s hard-hitting to small employers.”

Work Strong Austin, an activist group that supported the ordinance, called the lawsuit frivolous and said the business groups involved in it are “seeking to undermine the democratic process and take away this basic human right and public health protection right from 223,000 working families” in the city.

The ordinance requires that most private Austin employers give each worker up to 64 hours — or eight full eight-hour workdays — of paid sick leave per year. Small businesses with 15 or fewer employees are required to meet a lower cap of 48 hours of paid sick leave per year, or six workdays.

I’m going to let Ed Sills, in his email newsletter from Wednesday, break this one down:

The public policy rationales are solid as a rock. The public health argument alone should resonate for everyone. Who wants flu victims preparing food at a restaurant because they can’t afford to sit out an illness? Who wants to sit next to someone on a bus if they have a cold?

The arguments in the lawsuit are frivolous and fatuous. TPPF is saying the ordinance violates the state’s prohibition on local minimum wage increases because paid sick leave is a form of a wage increase. That is utter nonsense.

If a benefit like paid sick leave counted toward fulfilling the minimum wage, employers right and left would pay less than $7.25 an hour and count the value of benefits they already offer toward the wage floor. Employers know they would be laughed out of court and roasted in the court of public opinion if they tried that.

The other “big idea” from TPPF is something called “substantive due process,” and therein lies a danger. Substantive due process reasoning was used by some judges in the first few decades of the 20th Century to strike down minimum wage, maximum hour and other laws. Unlike procedural due process, which guarantees fair trials and other safeguards that enable people in our legal system to make their cases, “substantive due process” was historically a card for employers to play when they didn’t like laws enacted by majorities to protect working people.

The U.S. Supreme Court occasionally recognized substantive due process, and a few examples are instructive. In 1905, the high court overturned a New York law limiting bakery employees to 60 hour a week. In 1923, the high court struck down minimum-wage laws using substantive due process analysis. In 1925, the court struck down laws banning “yellow-dog contracts” that required employees to agree not to join a labor union (this was in the pre-National Labor Relations Act days).

A changing majority on the Supreme Court during the Franklin Roosevelt era eventually flushed away substantive due process. By 1955, a unanimous court declared in Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, “The day is gone when this Court uses the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to strike down state laws, regulatory of business and industrial conditions, because they may be unwise, improvident, or out of harmony with a particular school of thought.” The law upheld in the case was a state requirement that eyeglasses be fitted and duplicated by licensed optometrists or ophthalmologists.

The law is on the side of the paid sick leave ordinance, but the infection of the law by politics may be a different story. I would not bet my house, my car or even my fidget spinner that the Texas Supreme Court would uphold a paid sick leave ordinance. The high civil court is a haven for the business community in Texas. Moreover, Gov. Greg Abbott and elements of the Texas Legislature will take a shot at the ordinance – and potentially at ordinances that voters in San Antonio and Dallas might be considering in November – in the next legislative session.

One argument the business community will make to overturn Austin’s ordinance, and to preempt other cities from following suit, is that it’s just too hard on businesses that operate statewide to comply with different rules in different cities. (As if the more-than-statewide businesses don’t already have to do that outside Texas.) But fine, if that’s the problem, then pass a sick leave law at the state level, or even better in Congress. Sick people should be home getting better and not infecting everyone around them, so take away the economic incentive for them to drag their contagious selves to work. I do not understand the argument against that. KUT and Fox 7 Austin have more.

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18 Comments

  1. Manny Barrera says:

    Use or lose it, unfortunately many employees will call in sick to use the days. It ain’t a perfect world. Everyone likes to game the system.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I have no problem with this as long as businesses lower the employee’s salaries a commensurate amount to make this idea cost neutral cor both the employee and the employer. Or we could continue to let them negotiate by themselves like normal.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    Without lower wages in exchange for this new government mandated employee benefit, the law is discriminatory to employees of companies that already give sick pay.

    That is unequal treatment under the law.

  4. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    Private businesses shouldn’t be allowed to offload their costs onto the taxpayers. That’s what they’re doing when they don’t pay a living wage. That’s what they’re doing when they force employees to choose between lost wages and recovery from communicable illnesses.

    Sure, we can make up the difference with SNAP and Medicaid and similar programs for which the majority of recipients are employed. But why are we paying taxpayer dollars to prop up businesses that clearly aren’t succeeding? Why do we blithely accept that we have to shoulder the costs that businesses choose to externalize? One way or another, someone has to pay for sick people and the spread of diseases.

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    The title is incorrect. Business don’t want to force sick people to come to work; they just don’t want to be forced to pay people who don’t come in. Of course, many of the businesses affected are small businesses, which are struggling in this age of Amazon, chain restaurants/fast food, and Internet commerce.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    Robby,

    Instead of blaming evil business owners, why not place the blame where it is due….with low skilled people who can’t or won’t do any better for themselves? Say you have a business and you need someone to sweep the floor. Whatever you think a living wage is, $ 15/hr, $ 20/ hr, $ 30/hr, etc., you can’t pay a floor sweeper that because the floor sweeper doesn’t contribute that much to the operation.

    If you want to reduce welfare, support the wall and Trump’s robust deportation program. The best way to reduce the number of poor in the US is to stop importing them, and stop importing people who will create poor anchor babies. Look at the HISD debacle over the failing schools the state wants to take over.
    There’s no shortage of poor kids who will become poor adults because they didn’t get a good education. No need to import or make more of them.

  7. Manny Barrera says:

    Bill, your analogy is wrong, try not keeping the floor clean and see what it gets you.

    I guess the $15 comes from Robby using “Living wage”, cause I did not see 15.

    Bill you hate none white people so much that the wall is the reason? Walls don’t keep people out, sure did not keep the mongols out, Israel has a much smaller wall and people still sneak in. Most of the people who are staying here come here legally, via a visa. But people that can’t believe they ain’t as successful have to find a bogeyman “Illegal” to blame. Besides waves of cheap labor is what made America great, go read some history books.

    The following link is not from the people that call themselves news, it is from real news, so I know you won’t believe it.

    http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-palestinian-workers-israel-20170714-story.html

  8. Manny Barrera says:

    Waves of cheap labor and slaves, African and Native. Corrrection

  9. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    Bill, where did I say “evil?” For-profit businesses are, by definition greedy. It makes perfect business sense for them to offload costs wherever they can. If they can make the rest of us pay the cost of ensuring that they have healthy employees, they will do so. If they can make the rest of us pay the cost of disposing of their waste products, dealing with the flooding caused by their overpaving, handling the losses they incur when risk-taking fails, etc., they will do so. That’s not evil. It’s amoral. They’re no more evil for their actions than is a pack of wolves evil for taking down a moose.

    The role of society should be, however, to place constraints on the wolves among us, and that includes watching for where businesses externalize the costs of their operations.

    If a business needs 40 hours a week of floor-cleaning in order to operate, then that floor-cleaning is valuable to the business. The business doesn’t get to say “floor-cleaners are a waste of oxygen that should cost pennies an hour, so society gets to make up the difference in what it costs for floor cleaners to live.”
    At least, the business shouldn’t get to say that in a rational society that doesn’t exist solely for the purpose of ensuring that the rich get richer regardless of how that affects the rest of the members.

    Galt’s Gulch has dirty floors.

  10. Bill Daniels says:

    Robbie,

    We are having a circular argument. You want to mandate that any job, regardless of skill level or effort required, pays a certain minimum, “living” wage. Let’s just use the “fight for $ 15” example.

    Great! We raise the minimum to $ 15/hr. Any job that can automates, like putting in kiosks for customers to order at restaurants. Those jobs go away. Some jobs go to the underground black market, AKA to illegal aliens working off the books. The rest? Some businesses will close, especially those with already tight margins. More jobs gone, including the erstwhile business owners who no longer have a job because the business closed. Of those that stay in business, the lowest paid guys move up to $ 15. That causes a chain reaction, because the people who have more responsibility and skills who make $ 15 want to make more than the floor sweeper. Those who have more responsibility and skills than the first group previously making $ 15 also want to be paid more than the group under them. Wages spiral, the cost of goods rises, and everybody is pretty much back where it started. The newly minted $ 15/hour guy will have the same purchasing power he had before because everything he buys just got that much more expensive. The guy you are trying to help just got…..no help.

    What you are proposing is a hamster wheel of rising wages and inflation, where nobody is better off than they were before.

    Again, I direct you to the real solution, figure out how to have less poor people here. Boost the economy. Education. Deportation. Wall. Workfare.

  11. mollusk says:

    Balderdash.

    The minimum wage was a living wage for many, many years. In constant dollars, it peaked in 1968 at the equivalent of about $11 – $12, depending on which calculator you use. People did in fact raise families on jobs that were minimum wage or not much more.

    It took a big hit by not going up at all during the inflation of the late 60s – early 70s, then it regained a tiny bit and stabilized with a series of increases in the late 70s. Its value was once again clobbered by not increased at all during the 80s, and the increases since then haven’t been anything to write home about.

    Sure, trickle down economics remains an article of faith for some, but so does a flat earth with the sun revolving around it.

  12. Bill Daniels says:

    Mollusk.,

    Do you want higher wages, especially in minority neighborhoods? Deportation. Trump is doing more for black folks than Obama did in 8 years. Even Kanye “George Bush hates black people” West knows.

    https ://chicago.suntimes.com/news/at-major-northwest-side-bakery-labor-issues-pit-blacks-vs-hispanics/

    (close the space after https)

  13. robert says:

    Bill,

    When your day of reckoning comes…..I hope you remember all these posts when you are on the receiving end.

    You must be a sad lonely person, smh

  14. Bill Daniels says:

    @ Robert.

    Do you really want to go there? I stand with Lizzie, to make sure that the maximum number of poor babies, including brown babies, get killed as quickly and efficiently as possible. We will stand together to keep those clinic doors open and the sucking of body parts continuing non stop.

    My place in liberal Heaven is already assured.

  15. C.L. says:

    Troll, Bill, troll !

  16. Bill Daniels says:

    @C.L.:

    No troll. I really do support legal abortion, to dispose of kids that will have developmental issues like Down’s, CF, spina bifida, Tasak’s, etc. I also support it generally to keep even more poor kids from being born that the taxpayers will have to pay for, from prenatal care and expensive hospital delivery onward. Plenty of people have no business being parents. Abortion solves a problem.

  17. C.L. says:

    @Bill. You’re absolutely correct – only rich folks should be having children.