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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 10, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Sick leave

Swine-flu scare reveals little respite

I was pleased to read John Burbank’s guest commentary in The Seattle Times on May 2 [“Sick leave should be part of our swine-flu defense,” Opinion].

His take on sick leave in our country is totally correct. He explains that two-fifths of full-time employees in our state do not have the right to sick leave; it is even worse for part-timers.

We must be the only country in the so-called developed world where many companies do not grant sick leave. The reason? They do not have to! There is no law in our country that mandates sick leave.

I heard suggestions from all types of people in the papers and on TV: Don’t go to work sick and infect others. Either these people are kidding, or they have no idea that many people simply cannot afford to stay home. It is a situation that is totally unacceptable.

I truly feel it’s a crime not to offer employees at least — at the very least — 10 sick days a year, which is little enough. Until that happens, I can only say: Shame on America!

— Jutta Kurtak, Bellevue

Mandatory sick leave can do more harm

Especially with Washington’s unemployment rate skyrocketing 92 percent from March 2008 to March 2009, the push to mandate paid sick leave is thoroughly misguided.

Forcing employers — a majority of whom already have sick-leave policies in place — to commit to this time off will hurt the very employees this mandate purports to help.

Imposing a typical sick-leave mandate will likely increase employer costs by as much as 5 percent per year. Research from the University of California, Irvine shows that a 5 percent increase in labor costs will cause another spike in unemployment beyond current levels (with the largest unemployment increases among high-school dropouts and minority teens).

Businesses offset additional labor costs by reducing staff hours, benefits and wages. In today’s economy, this can mean eliminating jobs entirely, or even forcing some businesses with tight margins to close their doors.

Especially at a time when the economy is struggling, state policymakers should focus on promoting job growth instead of pushing mandates that create barriers to entry-level employment, especially for the state’s most vulnerable workers.

— Kristen Lopez Eastlick, Employment Policies Institute, Washington, D.C.

Comments | More in Swine flu / H1N1

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