Ilya Marritz covers business for WNYC.
Paid Sick Leave Debate Reignites With Two Conflicting Studies
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The discussion over a paid sick leave is heating up again. At issue is a bill before the City Council that would require all businesses in the city to offer sick workers paid leave so they can stay home and recuperate. Two new studies offer conflicting takes on the likely effects this bill would have on businesses.
The Partnership for New York City, a business group, says the bill would cost businesses an additional $789 million a year, or three tenths of a percent on top of current payroll costs. It may not sound like much, but Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership, says paid sick leave would hit certain types of businesses particularly hard: restaurants and construction, nonprofits and companies with fewer than 20 employees.
“The increase in their cost is like another tax,” Wylde says.
But another study, by the liberal-leaning Drum Major Institute, gives a sharply contrasting view. DMI researchers analyzed California employment data and found San Francisco businesses were not adversely affected after a paid sick leave law went into effect there in 2007.
“The experience in San Francisco has shown us this is an effective policy that is not going to prevent job growth,” says Dan Morris, a spokesman for the Drum Major Institute.
While employment went down across the Bay Area after the 2008 financial meltdown, fewer jobs were lost, in percentage terms in San Francisco, than in the neighboring areas.
With both studies appearing on the same day, each side has been criticizing the other's methods. Morris notes that the Partnership study is based on voluntary survey data that may not reflect the full range of businesses in New York City. Wylde says with fewer than a million inhabitants, who are on average wealthier than New Yorkers, San Francisco is not a good yardstick for New York City.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has not taken a formal position on the issue, sounded a skeptical note on Wednesday.
“One of the things we're worried about in this city is creating jobs. And anything that is slowing down job creation in the city, this is not a good time for it,” Bloomberg says.
The question now is whether the bill will reach the Mayor's desk. The bill already has the support of the majority of City Council members, but City Council Speaker Christine Quinn says she wants to see the figures from the business community, before allowing a vote.
Now, her office says she's examining the data.
Updated on Sept. 29, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.