Paid Sick Leave is Popular — So Corporate America is Lobbying Against Democracy

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This post originally appeared at ThinkProgress.

Ten states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin — have passed preemption laws that ban all cities and counties from enacting paid sick days bills, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute.

As can be seen from the chart, momentum has picked up recently, with seven of those laws passed this year alone. They have also been introduced in at least 14 state legislatures, and Pennsylvania is currently considering one that was introduced in October.

Big business has been helping to fuel this tide of legislation. As the report notes, “In each of the ten states, the bills’ sponsors included members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). And in each case, the bills were adopted following vigorous advocacy by corporate lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and Restaurant Association.”

Yet even though these business opponents claim that paid sick days would create unbearable costs, the evidence from those places that do have paid sick leave shows that they can be beneficial. Business growth and job growth have been strong under Seattle’s law. Job growth has also been strong in San Francisco and its law enjoys strong business support. The policies in Washington, DC and Connecticut have come at little cost for businesses. In fact, expanding DC’s current law would net employers $2 million in savings even with potential costs factored in. On the other hand, the average employer loses $225 per worker each year thanks to lost productivity when they get sick and can’t take paid leave.

And as the momentum grows for preemption bills, so too does the push for paid sick days. Six cities and Connecticut have them on the books, and fights are underway in Newark, NJTacoma, WAMassachusettsNew Jersey; and Vermont.

Bryce Covert is the economic policy editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Follow her on Twitter at @brycecovert.


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  • Anonymous

    When are we going to rid the nation of this flesh eating infection called ALEC???

  • David

    You want a side of flu with that?

  • Anonymous

    I thought ALEC had been forced to dissolve. As far as I can tell, it merely reorganized under a different name or something and now it’s back ???????

  • Gnat K. Coal

    Nah, just make mine an e-coli epidemic slathered with MERSA.

  • strider367

    The war against the middle class continues…

  • Anonymous

    Shine light on all members & every legislator or governor that attends thsir events. Nothing sanitizes like visibility.

  • Anonymous

    You are thinking of ACORN; Braitwaite did a number on them and by the time the whole story came out they had been ruined.

  • roe

    Our local Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce convinced the Democratic(?) Mayor Michael Nutter to VETO (TWICE) the approval of the Paid Sick Leave proposal by City Council. NOW, a Republican PA state legislator has introduced a bill that would NEGATE any municipal ordinances that have passed, effectively putting in play ANY company’s previous sick leave policy. Will the savings to employers in benefits outweigh the loss of business dollars from restaurant patrons not willing to risk being served by sick waiters, or loss in productivity due to corporate employees spreading their illnesses to co-workers? Be careful what you wish for!

  • JonThomas

    The title has nothing to do with any “illusion,” nor does it have anything at all to do with any comparison between “Democracy” and “Republic” as relating to forms of government.

    Sorry to say this so strongly, but It’s blatantly obvious, to anyone not caught up in such ridiculous sophistry, that this article relates to the dangers of big business having undue influence over U.S. democratic institutions.

    Democracy, in this context, is simply the method in which Government leaders are chosen.

    Now, as to the results of representative DEMOCRACY (the type of democratic process the U.S. employs,) it is true that individual resulting representatives may become swayed, induced, or inclined to vote for business lobbying groups.

    One danger, as this article points out, is while it is the citizens (The People) which have the power of the vote (including those people who would vote for candidates who favor such business interests,) lobbying group can often sway the decisions of democratically elected officials into making decisions which act against the interests of the average voting citizenry.

    Why are so many people, especially these ‘wannabe constitutional scholar’ types, misusing the nuanced definitions of the word ‘democracy’?

    Seems to me to be a distraction… a co-opting of the discussion surrounding these important discussions.

    My unsolicited advice? To any person reading these comments, who may not be well versed in these subjects, please do not be swayed! Please, before you ‘buy into’ what is passing for scholarship, learn the basics about political terminology.

    Civics classes are not what they used to be… Unfortunately, for the most part, it is up to each person to study and learn the basics on their own!

  • JonThomas


  • Anonymous

    The blame lies with the GOP. They hate the american worker. They want to abolish minimum wage laws, social security and the Affordable Care Act. They want all the benefits but none of the costs of living in the USA.

  • steve whetstone

    In name and by claim we are constitutionally a republic, so I can agree with you. But I agree with @jonthomas more that it’s not the relevant part of the problem.

    Socialist, democracy, republic, whatever, changing from one to the other doesn’t solve the problem of corruption and government that’s not representing the 99%. taxation and legislation without representation was enough reason for america to declare independence and the 99% are now taxed and they are not represented in practice.

    Noam chomsky compared the poll data and the public opinion surveys and compared with policy and political actions taken by our elected officials. The result was that we function as a Plutocracy or a Kleptocracy and the USA fits the definition of Crony Capitalism. Plutocracy and Kleptocracy and Crony Capitalism can all occur in a country that calls itself a different form of government on paper and in propaganda. So the problem isn’t whether on a piece of paper the US claims to be a republic or a democracy. The problem is Power is actually held and representation is limited to the 1% for the benefit of the 1% with the 99% suffering unheard. The problem could happen in a democracy or a republic or socialist form of government if the leaders listen and act based on the 1% only in any form of government.

    You might say the problem isn’t whether we’re a democracy or a republic, the problem is the leaders violate their sworn oath of office to serve the American people and instead politicians serve the business elite only.

  • Anonymous

    Yep. and almost 50% of the country actually believes the nonsense they are sold as their quality of life declines, their standard of living stagnates (or declines) since 1973, etc. ‘unions are evil’ ‘don’t tax the job creators’ ‘land of the free’ ‘anyone can make it’ ‘we have the best health care in the world’ ‘we have the best educational system in the world’ etceteras. The list of self-delusion is simply too long to articulate via the written word.

    Corporations pay the lowest effective tax rates in history and when 5 members of the Walton family are worth more than 110,000,000-140,000,000 Americans (yes million) combined and yet we cannot raise taxes by even 2-3% on the wealthiest because of a canard that has no basis in economic reality ‘don’t tax the job creators’ it really becomes difficult to argue we live in a Democracy with a straight face.

  • Anonymous

    Which, by definition, is a Plutocracy. We’re a Democracy – a technical Republic – in name only. Chris Hedges has written some great stuff in this regard and he expresses the work of Sheldon Wolin – suggesting we live in an era of ‘inverted totalitarianism’. I think he’s spot on.

  • Anonymous

    Do you think with Gerrymandering, the way the electoral votes are assembled, the electoral college, and even the more trivial matter of candidates who cannot attend debates as anything but mere spectators – that we live in a “representative Democracy”?

    If your answer is yes it suggests an idealistic interpretation of what is actually taking place in light of the difficulties, as you expressed, that we can both agree upon (Corporate control and influence within the political domain to name but one example). Still further, if your answer remains ‘yes’, at what point does a ‘representative Democracy’ exist as merely nomenclature (or terminology) without application?

    I ask not in refutation to your rebuttal directed @charles giltner because I see your point. Rather, i’m curious what your impressions are.

  • JonThomas

    Please allow an analogy. ..

    I have this old truck. It was, and if fixed, would still be a decent vehicle. Although It’s broke and doesn’t drive, it is still a truck.

    I suppose at a certain point, if parts keep getting stripped off of it, and rust sets in, it will no longer be fixable and will need to be scrapped.

    So, yeah, the U.S. Government is still a Republic which uses representative Democracy as the process through which it’s citizens choose it’s leaders. However, there are indeed problems with the process as it is practiced.

    In the case of my truck, I as it’s keeper, am responsible for it’s demise.

    I think my analogy does answer your immediate question, but it is deficient for tackling the larger point. The U.S. Government, through manipulation of it’s processes, is being used by people and groups to further private interests to the detriment of average citizens.

    I suppose I can imagine my truck being stolen, and someone is using it to accomplish tasks which hurt people, even myself.

    People would see the truck, and the things being done with it would be tracked back to me. At some point I think most earnest people would know the truck was stolen, but there might still be a lot of confusion as to who is to be blamed. By the amount of rhetoric and false information pushed by the transgressors, and their increase in hurtful action, it also appears that they would realize their time is growing short.

    Who knows, at a certain point they may even try to switch the blame by claiming it was always their truck and I am the one who did all the bad things.

    Well, I’ll stop there… yes, I am way too verbose, but it’s fun.

    To be honest, the main reason I replied to Charles’ comment is frustration. I am really tired of people who either do not understand how their own government is supposed to work, or are using opportunities to obfuscate the truth with half-true comments meant to serve some agenda.

    Over the last few years, especially surrounding this issue of Republic vs. Democracy, people are making comments which are just not correct at all.

    It’s one thing to argue and debate subjective, opinion-based issues of beliefs and methods, but it’s quite another to twist basic facts.

    The fact is: The U.S. Government is a Republic. Instead of it’s leaders being appointed, or placed in power by a few, powerful citizens, or through a system of Direct Democracy – by constitutional mandate, the U.S. employs Representative Democracy.

    For some reason, there seems to be a LOT of people misusing the concept of a “Republic,” and attacking the word “Democracy” in these political forums.

    As you have stated, there is no doubt that the democratic institutions, in which citizens rely to secure a fair system, are being used, abused, corrupted, and hijacked for personal, or private interest gain.

    At some point, does the democracy not matter any more? That question, and the proposed solutions go back to subjective opinion.

    In the meantime, a better understanding of civics would at least help people understand the importance of what they are supposed to have, what they have lost, what they are losing, and what they can do about it if they are so inclined.

    I had one guy trying to use the Federalist Papers to try to defend his ridiculous assertions. To me, when someone starts breaking out obscure references, to defend an indefensible position, it reveals more than just misunderstanding! It uncovers a more insidious agenda!

    To not understand what should be common knowledge, that there is a difference between a democratic process, and a Direct Democracy, but yet to be versed in the content of the Federalist Papers is uncanny! No, it’s simply not believable!

    Anyway… I do believe that there is a group twisting these discussions to fit their own narrative. When I see such sinister actions I get extremely annoyed!

    Sorry that I have such difficulty with brevity, and thank you for the discussion.

  • steve whetstone

    Thanks for the supportive agreement and additional info. I’ll look into Chris Hedges and Sheldon Wolin.

    At first glance It sounds like I could agree. Although the choice of new term “inverted totalitarianism” is maybe a poor choice for a buzzword since it suggests the people are exercising total authority over the government. I would argue for a better new buzzword like we are living in an era of “corporate coercion” because it’s not total control as anyone can fight the system and not get arbitrarily killed or imprisoned as I expect when I hear the word totalitarian. Also it’s not inverted unless you start with the assumption that corporations should ordinarily be subordinate to the public will. Unfortunately only the framers of the constitution and people from hundreds of years ago exercised the constitutional right to dissolve any business and revoke any corporate charter that failed to support the will of the people. By strict interpretation of the constitution the corporations are subject to the will of the people and are to be dissolved, taken over or broken up at the governments discretion to benefit the people, but it’s just not how the power and authority operate in practice and the vocabulary of the population as in use does not place corporation as subservient to the public. Also I think our constitutional ability to dissolve multinational corporations was lost as part of a trade agreement that superseded the constitution (not much mentioned to the public about that).

  • Guest

    You don’t talk sense into the hearts and minds of greedy sociopaths. They lack the capacity for empathy and their brains have devolved so that they can only use their minds for criminal and not critical thought.