Amanda Fakhreddine of the Patriot Ledger writes that in order to stay in business in the current economic climate, Richard Meier, owner of Meier & Associates, has had to make drastic cutbacks.
Now, Meier, whose company is based in Abington, has another worry – the Paid Sick Leave Act that’s being considered by the state Legislature.
“I like to give employees everything I can and keep them employed,” Meier said. “The Paid Sick Leave Act will make it that much more difficult.”
However, Mary Tillman, a Mattapan personal-care assistant, recalled a time when she was sick with pneumonia and still had to go to work. “By the time I got her bathed and dressed, I just had to lie on the floor and rest,” Tillman said of her patient.
The bill, which is being considered in the Legislature’s labor committee, would require that all employers offer paid sick leave to their employees. Employees would be able to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work. The committee’s members are being polled this week to determine the level of support for the bill.
Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Rep. Kay Khan introduced the bill for the first time in 2005. The legislation died both that year and in 2007. However, the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition, which is made up of 60 organizations, is optimistic that it will be passed this time around.
Dan Gilbarg, a spokesman for the Brockton-based Coalition for Social Justice, said that more than half of Massachusetts workers do not get paid sick leave. “Working people recognize that it’s a benefit that should be part of any civilized society,” he said.
However, some small-business owners oppose the bill.
Bill Vernon, director of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, said most small businesses have sick leave benefits that are tailored to their company. State mandates could require companies to cut their own benefits.
“I think the danger is the idea that the Massachusetts Legislature can determine what the benefits are for an employee,” said Vernon, who lives in Mansfield, “The employees will find out the hard way that because of this legislation, employers can’t afford to provide these other benefits.” Vernon said that the bill was “anti-business,” and that would make it difficult for small businesses to grow.
Philip Johnston, former chairman of the state’s Democratic Party and the president of the Johnston Associates public affairs firm in Boston, said that as a small business owner he thought the bill was much needed.
“It’s an outrage that working people are not covered when they are sick,” said Johnston, who conceded that the bill would impose a small extra cost to employers.
However, Meier, the business owner from Abington, is worried that the legislation might force him to close.
“I’m at the point where I don’t want to retire, but right now my expenses are slightly more than I’m taking in, and I’m only going to do be able to do it for a little while longer,” Meier said. “But when you add this all together, it’s a killer.”