LWVDC Statement Supporting City of Madison Ordinance to Provide Sick Leave Benefits to Employees

[presented December 14, 2005 and January 17, 2006 before city committees or commissions]

Why is the League of Women Voters of Dane County supporting the expansion of sick leave benefits within the city of Madison? Why are we urging you to do the same? We are not a direct service agency where we see the harmful effects on workers who do not have these benefits and their families. Nor will the vast majority of our membership directly benefit from the adoption of this ordinance.

However, we understand the ramifications of stressed households when wages are lost because of illness, theirs or those who are their responsibility. We know from the experiences of social service agencies and churches that lost wages can result in housing evictions, increased health care costs, disruption in their children's education, increased need for food pantries, emotional turmoil within the family, and even job loss. We know that the majority affected are single parent households and are of low income that makes the loss of wages even more detrimental. We know when ill employees work or their children go to school ill productivity is loss and infectious diseases can spread throughout the workplace and school.

We know this all results in higher social costs that impact on the whole community. These social costs outweigh, in our opinion, the extra costs to businesses. This cost for businesses is an additional 3.1/3% of its payroll and that is only if its full-time workers all accrue and use the maximum benefit of about nine days, each employee who takes sick leave is replaced every hour with an additional employee who is paid the same hourly wage, and none of the employees get any paid time off currently that would count towards compliance with the ordinance. Employers with less than five workers are exempt under the ordinance as well as employers who already provide an equivalent amount of leave. In addition, only employees who work more than 12 hours a week and have worked for their employer for 60 calendar days are covered.

Most important for the League, supporting this ordinance furthers our long standing tradition of supporting government action that works toward combating poverty and discrimination and that provides equal opportunity for employment for all workers. We, also, believe that the most effective social programs are those designed to prevent or reduce poverty. We understand that the most appropriate body to be considering the concept of this ordinance is the State Legislature. However, the League considers the need to expand sick leave benefits too crucial to wait until a legislature is in place that will seriously address the issue. Therefore, we strongly urge you to vote in support of the ordinance to provide sick leave benefits to all workers.