Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!
It should be the new motto for the City of Milwaukee: "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!".
The arguments go like this. "It would be nice, so I should have it." "Other people have it , so I should too." Then there's my personal favorite, "Darn it, I deserve it!"
I'm referring of course to efforts to require employers in the City of Milwaukee to provide paid sick days for all emplyees.
Under the state's direct-legislation law, citizens can force a binding referendum on laws if they are able to muster enough signatures on a petition. Thanks to the efforts of some activists, that is precisely what has happened in Milwaukee. As such, it appears that the Milwaukee Common Council will have no choice but to certify this question for the ballot in November.
Here's how the proposal would work. All employees who work in the City of Milwaukee would be covered - both full and part-time. All workers would be entitled to 1 paid hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, capped at 9 paid sick days per year. Employees at businesses with fewer than 10 employees would get 1 hour of paid sick time for every 50 hours worked, capped at 5 days per year. "Sick days" could be used for an employee's own illness, the illness of a family member or medical appointments.
As an indicator of just how bad an idea this is, even the liberal-leaning Milwaukee Common Council doesn't have enough votes to approve this ordinance outright. That should tell you something.
Let me be clear at the outset, I think paid sick time is a great thing. While I almost never take time off for illness, I've always worked for employers who offered paid sick leave. That said, I don't think I'm entitled to paid sick time any more than I think I'm entitled to having my employer provide me with free parking and a free lunch.
Put simply, paid sick time is a benefit - not an entitlement.
In America (and at least thus far in Milwaukee), we still have this thing called a "free market". If in order to get qualified workers an employer has to offer sick time as a benefit, it will. Otherwise, it's not government's role to force the matter.
Beyond this, talk about the law of unintended consequences. Paid time off costs money - and employers will have to come up with that money from somewhere. Perhaps they'll try to pass their costs on to consumers. More likely though, they'll either cut back on other benefits or cut back on the size of their workforce.
Paid days off (which is what this really is) might be nice. However, would workers trade paid health insurance for this? How about trading a few jobs for some paid days off for the employees who remain? How are you going to feel if you're one of the employees who loses their job or their insurance because of this? Will it have been worth it?
I doubt it.
Moreover, can you imagine what this will do to the business climate in Milwaukee? Seriously, aren't we already losing enough jobs around here without putting a burden like this on employers? What business in its right mind will locate in Milwaukee if it has to incur this additional cost? What business that currently doesn't offer this benefit will stay in the City when it can easily move to the suburbs?
Talk about a job killer!
I understand why this concept appeals to some people. In a perfect world, we'd all make six-figure salaries and get Cadillac benefit packages for doing jobs that we love. In a perfect world though, we'd also be able to eat all the chocolate cake we want and not get fat. Needless to say, we don't live in a perfect world.
I fully appreciate that the "Gimme culture" is so pervasive that come November this ordinance may actually pass. If it does, that whooshing sound you hear will be employers fleeing the City and low-income jobs being lost.
Just what Milwaukee needs!