AUGUSTA – In Michael Brennan’s July 29 Maine Voices column (“Paid sick days an issue that all candidates should support”) backing a policy in Maine mandating employers provide paid sick time to all employees, he indicates that candidates who support such a mandate will surely come away as “winners” in the upcoming election.

Clearly he was unaware that the same proposal submitted by Senate President Libby Mitchell last session failed to generate enough support even from within her own party to succeed.

Apparently they knew more than the sponsor, and Brennan, about the struggles of large and small businesses alike in Maine today.

It should come as a surprise to no one that, when asked, most employees will support the concept of paid sick leave.

And in fact, most Maine businesses, even small businesses, already provide some form of paid sick time to full time workers.

For those employers that do not, it isn’t a matter of not wanting to, or not valuing workers; it’s simply that they can’t afford the cost of such an expensive mandate.

If Brennan were at the eight-hour public hearing on L.D. 1665, he would have heard the negative reaction from the nearly 100 businesses — representing every size and sector from around the state — that came to express their concern about mandating sick pay.

He also fails to disclose that no other state in the country places such a costly burden on businesses.

That’s right. In a time when we are scrambling for every opportunity to bolster our economy and to create jobs, Maine would be outside the mainstream.

No matter how hard supporters try, one cannot study or poll away the fact that requiring businesses here to provide paid sick days for every worker creates a new cost of doing business here that 49 other states would not have.

No study is going to make that fact go away.

Businesses’ resources are not unlimited, and they would absolutely not be able to simply absorb the costs associated with such a proposal.

So their options for offsetting these new costs are less than desirable in this our current economic reality — eliminate or reduce other forms of leave currently and voluntarily provided to workers; reduce costs in other benefit areas, like employer contributions to health care premiums; put off creating a new job, or returning a worker to work; and lastly, lay off employees to cover their costs.

It was estimated by employers, even those with existing paid sick leave polices, that such a mandate could cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to comply.

Five years ago, the Maine State Chamber, with the help of some of its members, stepped up to help craft a law that allows workers who receive some form of paid leave (sick, vacation, paid time off or personal time) to use up to 40 hours of that leave as sick time in order to care for themselves, their child, spouse or parent.

While the law applies to businesses with more than 25 workers, and the leave must be earned, Maine was the first state in the country to allow such leave flexibility.

Today, only a handful of other states have followed suit and adopted similar laws.

It seems that despite our best efforts, it’s not enough for some people.

 

– Special to The Press Herald