Getting Down to Business (February 2013)
February 01, 2013 | Work/Life & Job Quality
In this issue:
Portland Earned Sick Days Campaign Builds Business Support
Benefit Corporation Legislation Passes in D.C.
Ohio Business Joins with U.S. Senator to Support Sick Days
Harsh Flu Season Prompts Media Attention to Business Case for Sick Days
Earned Sick Days Protect Worker and Food Safety – and the Bottom Line
ASBC Radio Show Profiles Business Owners Providing Quality Jobs
“Kitchen Ethical” Event Showcases High Road Businesses, New Poll Results
Getting Down to Business is CLASP's monthly update on business and paid leave news. If you have news you want to share with your colleagues around the country, let us know. And be sure to let your area businesses know about Better Workplaces, Better Businesses, a website that aggregates news and research related to business and paid leave and highlights business supporters of paid leave from around the country.
Portland’s campaign for earned sick days is making significant headway in its business outreach. The Everybody Benefits Coalition has reached out to over 600 businesses throughout Portland, engaging them in one-on-one discussions and inviting them to events. Main Street Alliance (MSA) has canvassed employers on main streets in Portland. As a result of this extensive outreach, numerous individual business owners have signed on to the campaign, while others have indicated a strong interest. Read more about business outreach in Portland.
In late December, the District of Columbia City Council approved legislation allowing corporations to attain the status of “benefit corporations.” The Mayor is expected to sign off on this legislation soon. Benefit corporations are legal entities that meet certain requirements regarding corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency. This legal status is currently administered by 12 states, with 14 others considering legislation. Benefit corporation legislation gives business officers the legal protection they need to consider non-financial interests in their decision making. Such interests may include workers’ rights, procurement policies, environmental practices, and so on. Without this protection, corporations that let the interests of stakeholders besides shareholders guide their business practices may be vulnerable to legal action.
Because benefit corporations often embrace the value of workers’ rights and may be particularly committed to offering high quality jobs to their employees, the growth of benefit corporation legislation across the country is exciting news for earned sick days advocates. Advocates in states that are considering benefit corporation legislation may wish to send a letter of support to their representatives. See CLASP’s letter of support for D.C. benefit corporation legislation. Learn more about benefit corporations.
Heather Rocco-Geissler, CEO of Ohio-based Challenger Aviation Products, spoke out in favor of earned sick leave on a conference call hosted by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. Brown announced on the call that he is cosponsoring the Healthy Families Act, federal legislation that would allow workers to earn paid sick days. Rocco-Geissler says she is passionate about the issue. “As the CEO, I feel that without my employees I would not be in this position. In my opinion, these are earned paid sick days that they deserve, that they’ve earned. I really believe that everyone should have the right to be sick and recover.” Read more about Rocco-Geissler and Senator Brown.
Over the past two months, a particularly nasty flu season has gripped the nation. The flu has had tragic consequences for too many families, but at least one positive outcome has emerged: a renewed attention on the importance of earned sick days. While the health implications of sick days – or the lack thereof – has been the focus of much of the media coverage we’ve seen, several articles and segments have highlighted the business case for sick days.
In Business Finance magazine, Joanne Sammer tells HR and finance professionals that they ought to think carefully about their company’s policies regarding sick days, warning about the dangers of presenteeism. She writes, “If a company does not offer paid sick time to employees, chances are very good that presenteeism [working at less than full capacity] is rampant at this time of year.
In an article in the Huffington Post, Bruce Elliott, manager of compensation and benefits at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an HR lobbying organization, spoke in favor of sick days. He called paid sick leave “smart management that ultimately protects the bottom line.” The article also notes that Elliott believes legal mandates for paid sick leave are a good idea, and he is “encouraged” by the initiatives for sick days he’s seen in recent years.
Hopefully, we’ll hear more supportive business voices in areas where active campaigns for earned sick days are being waged, such as Portland, Oregon; New York City; and Philadelphia! Read more news clips on businesses and earned sick days.
The list of reasons for businesses to support earned sick days seems to be growing by the day. Recent research findings highlight relationships between sick days and workplace safety, on the one hand, and sick days and food safety, on the other. Businesses have a vested interest in both of these arenas, which can seriously impact their profitability.
In the realm of worker safety, a new study shows that the economic cost of workplace injuries among low-wage workers amounted to more than $39 billion in 2010. At the same time, 80 percent of low-wage workers have no access to paid sick leave. Another study, released earlier this year, showed that workers with paid sick leave were 28 percent less likely than those without leave to be injured. The costs of workplace injuries are felt by businesses that may experience reduced demand – workers are consumers, too – or who may bear the costs of workers compensation, healthcare, turnover, and more. Read more about workplace injuries, earned sick days, and employers.
January was also an important month for food safety advocates. The Food and Drug Administration proposed two broad new food safety rules, finally moving forward with the rulemaking process for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FSMA is the first major food safety legislation passed since the 1930s. The rules are a big step forward for food safety, but they leave unaddressed an issue that threatens to undermine public health and worker safety – the fact that most food chain workers receive no earned sick days. Read more about the proposed food safety rules and earned sick days.
CLASP’s colleague organization, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), hosted an exciting radio show earlier this month, featuring responsible business owners that provide quality jobs to their employees. The hour-long show hosted by Stephenie Hendricks and Richard Eidlin, featured Washington D.C. restaurant owner, Andy Shallal, and St. Louis, MO, record store owner, Lew Prince. The show highlighted best practices that companies can pursue to create financially successful businesses while also creating healthy working environments and stronger communities. Among the issues it touched upon were earned sick days and minimum wage. If you missed the show, you can still listen online.
The National Consumers League (NCL) and Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United) hosted a fantastic event in D.C. on January 16th. “Kitchen Ethical” featured two local ethical restaurant owners. Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets and Eatonville Restaurants, and Chef Tate, owner of Inspire Barbeque, spoke about their commitment to workers’ rights and the impact their policies (including paid sick leave and health insurance coverage) have on the profitability of their restaurants.
The event also coincided with the release of NCL’s new poll , which demonstrates consumer support for improved job quality for restaurant workers. The survey found that 92 percent of consumers believe that it is very important or important that the servers and cooks in the restaurants they patronize do not cook or serve food while sick. Well over half of respondents agreed on the importance of allowing these workers to earn paid sick days. With consumers expressing a clear preference for fair sick leave policies, the message to business owners is also clear: to satisfy customers, employers must provide restaurant workers with just working conditions, including earned sick days. Read more about NCL’s poll and Kitchen Ethical.
Watch for these happenings in the coming months:
• CLASP and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) will release a fact sheet for advocates, highlighting how they can work with benefit corporations and organizations that certify sustainable businesses. These businesses and certifying organizations value workers’ rights and can be useful allies for paid leave campaigns.
• In March, CLASP will host a national audio conference call on the intersection of earned sick days policies and workplace safety. The call will feature experts from both the earned sick days community and the occupational health community. Do you know of a business that offers its employees earned sick days in order to protect them from workplace injuries? If so, please contact Liz Ben-Ishai.
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