Taking Leave of Sickness

By Maxford Nelsen

A version of this article by Freedom Foundation labor policy analyst Maxford Nelsen originally appeared in The American Spectator on July 1, 2015.

Oregon’s Legislature just passed a law requiring employers with 10 or more employees to offer five days of paid sick leave to their employees per year, making Oregon the fourth state to adopt sick leave mandates for employers, following Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts. Oregon employers with fewer than 10 employees must offer five days of unpaid sick leave per year.* At the federal level, President Obama called for a national paid sick leave law in his 2015 State of the Union address.

But while labor activists treat paid sick leave like a proxy war against Wall Street, the casualties are all on Main Street. In practice, paid sick leave mandates like Oregon’s fall short of supporters’ expectations and are startlingly ineffective at achieving their basic goal of keeping sick employees from coming to work.

Only about 10 studies have attempted to measure the impact of existing paid sick leave regulations, which took off after San Francisco adopted a sick leave ordinance in 2006. A Freedom Foundation report, which was informally reviewed by academic and professional economists, evaluated the existing research and came to some surprising conclusions.

First, while supporters argue that public health demands mandating paid sick leave, workers come to work sick just as often with a mandatory paid sick leave policy as they do without one. Of the five studies to examine the effect of mandatory paid sick leave laws on workplace illness, four found no reduction. One study for the Seattle City Auditor noted that the lack of any decline in workplace illness “seemingly contradicts the intent of the [Seattle] ordinance.”

Second, mandatory paid sick leave laws do nothing to reduce turnover. One methodologically questionable study of Connecticut’s paid sick leave law by a pro-sick leave advocacy group reported a slight decrease in turnover, while a more credible study of Seattle’s paid sick leave ordinance by the University of Washington reported effectively no changes in turnover.

The result should not come as a surprise. As one small business owner in San Francisco—who offered paid sick leave—explained, “Since the new ordinance, employees will have the same benefit no matter where they work. There’s less of an incentive to stay and work for me.”

Third, consumers, workers, and employers are all negatively affected by mandatory paid sick leave policies. Employer surveys indicate that affected businesses frequently respond to paid sick leave laws by increasing prices, decreasing employee benefits and hours, and limiting expansion. Even after taking steps to offset the additional expenses, many businesses report reduced profitability.

Fourth, studies tend to exaggerate employer support for mandatory paid sick leave laws. All four of the studies that asked employers whether they supported the mandate found a majority of employers were supportive. In each case, however, a majority of employers were already mostly or completely in compliance with the law and had to make few changes in response, with the rate ranging from 50 to 89 percent.

While it is hardly surprising that unaffected businesses support a mandate that places additional costs on their competitors, most businesses that had to create new or modify existing policies appear to be opposed to paid sick leave mandates. Many of these businesses also report significant difficulty implementing the mandates.

Lastly, some paid sick leave laws are designed to promote union organizing. Paid sick leave statutes in at least San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Oregon’s new law contain provisions that allow labor unions to waive sick leave requirements in collective bargaining.

Such statutes allow unions to approach non-union employers and offer to waive the sick leave requirements in exchange for the employer’s cooperation in unionizing employees. Studies of San Francisco and Seattle’s sick leave ordinances indicate the waivers are frequently used.

But if paid sick leave is a basic workers’ right, as labor activists contend, why should union workers be the only ones exempt?

Overall, the evidence indicates that requiring employers to provide paid sick leave benefits produces few appreciable benefits and even raises costs.

Oregon’s course may be set, but it’s not too late for other states and the federal government to take heed of the evidence and approach paid sick leave mandates with a healthy dose of skepticism.

* “Employers with Portland operations and who employ at least six employees anywhere in the state will similarly be required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave benefits. Employers with fewer than 10 Oregon-based employees, and fewer than six employees, if operating in Portland, must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per year.” Source:  http://www.natlawreview.com/article/oregon-enacts-paid-sick-leave

Maxford Nelsen is Labor Policy Analyst at the Freedom Foundation in Washington State and a guest contributor for Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market research organization. A version of this article originally appeared in The American Spectator on July 1, 2015.

Press Release: Angry Protesters Reject Proposals for Employees’ Freedom to Choose

For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Patrick Schmitt, patrick@cascadepolicy.org


Angry protesters reject proposals for
employees’ freedom to choose

Attendees and Speaker Harassed at Northwest Employee Freedom Event

VANCOUVER, Wa. – Several dozen union protesters marched outside Clark College’s Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver on Thursday evening. The hostile group tried to block attendees from entering the event venue scheduled to hold the first Northwest Employee Freedom One Night Event, jointly sponsored by Cascade Policy Institute of Portland, Oregon and The Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Washington.

After yelling, harassing, and shoving event attendees and organizers, protesters entered the venue and began shouting and using bullhorns to disrupt the event. The keynote speaker, Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s labor expert Vincent Vernuccio, was also spat on by a protester. The Vancouver Police Department was called and escorted protesters out of the event center. The two who refused to leave were arrested for trespassing.

This peaceful gathering of Washingtonians and Oregonians was meant to educate them on the story of how Michigan secured the freedom for all of its public and private sector employees to choose whether or not they want to be represented by a union without financial consequences.

“This kind of behavior is most saddening because it shows a real lack of understanding of what Cascade Policy Institute wants for Oregon,” said Cascade founder Steve Buckstein.

“We do not seek to end unions or union representation. We simply want all Oregonians to have the right to choose whether or not union membership and representation is something they desire for themselves,” he said. “All Oregonians deserve that right, even those who reject our efforts.”

“At the end of the day, this is a fight for freedom and justice. No amount of harassment or intimidation will change that fact,” he ended.

Photos from the event, including images of protesters and arrests, can be found here: http://on.fb.me/1aUbH2C


Obamacare: Pain or Prescription for College Students’ Ailing Futures?

By Rebecca Phillips

Have you ever heard of someone waiting 18 months to get an MRI?

It’s a frequent scenario in Canada, a country that is noticeably free in most respects. The exception is health care, which is controlled by the government.

But waiting 18 months for an MRI rarely happens in the United States. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say it’s never happened in the United States…yet. This week, a crucial event is taking place whose outcome very well could be the difference between waiting 18 months or 18 minutes for an MRI. The United States Supreme Court has begun to hear the long-awaited arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.” The Court is expected to rule in June.

It may be easy for college students to support Obamacare based on the idea that free health coverage for those who currently can’t afford it is a good thing or even a “right.” But according to John R. Graham, Director of Healthcare Studies at Pacific Research Institute, there’s poison in that prescription.

“A ‘right’ to healthcare is a positive freedom,” Graham said, “meaning that people (doctors, nurses, etc.) must give things to you for free. That requires government enforcement.”

In other words, the federal government takes control of your access to health care. It may sound harmless at first, but there is real-world evidence to suggest otherwise. Graham highlighted Canada, where the government has controlled access to health care for the past 40 years. The goal was to grant equal access to health care. The reality is equal denial. There is a lack of access to health care resources across the board. Patients have extreme difficulty seeing a specialist or even a primary care physician. OB/GYNs hardly exist. And receiving tests or treatments often takes exorbitant amounts of time.

Under Obamacare, these inefficiencies will become a very real threat to our own access to health care. “Obamacare is not an equilibrium,” explained Graham. “Government will need – and want – more control. It would eventually become a single-payer system.”

In college, with tests and parties and internships occupying your time, it can be difficult to envision the impact Obamacare would have on your immediate and long-term future. But college students, of all demographics, should be among the most concerned. Obamacare places a huge financial burden on businesses through taxes tying up funds that otherwise could be used to hire or to invest. If you think it’s difficult to find a job now, it will be significantly more difficult under Obamacare’s full implementation. Free health care sounds nice right now, but will it retain its luster when so many students have degrees and student loans but no job because businesses can’t afford to hire?

Ironically, one only has to look at the medical field for evidence. As Graham pointed out, these medical industries already suffer from heavy taxes – so much so that layoffs are gaining prevalence in medical professions from clinicians to research scientists. Students looking to enter the medical field will face an even bleaker job market under Obamacare.

There’s also your own health to consider. Forty or fifty years from now, you likely will need more substantial medical care than you have needed in your teens and twenties. Will you want to face the same time and resource constraints that accompany government-controlled access to health care? Even 10 years from now, you may hesitate to start a family because specialized prenatal and OB/GYN care isn’t as readily available.

A “right” to health care may sound like a good idea, but what about the government having a “right” to tell you what you do or do not have access to – whether that’s medical care, a job, or a family? It has been said that a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have. Obamacare may force providers to expand their coverage on paper, but no one can promise you will get the treatment you need or the services you want – just look at Canada.

In the real economy, there is no such thing as “free” – it’s paid for by someone or not provided at all. When we cede individual control of our health care decisions to the government, the government decides who pays for what care, how much they will pay, who will get benefits, and when they will get treatment. When you are waiting 18 months for an MRI, the cost of “free” will be awfully high.

Rebecca Phillips is Student Freedom Project Coordinator at the Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington. She is a recent graduate of Berry College, Georgia, and a guest contributor for Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.