Pro Business Groups Blast Mandatory Sick Leave as Public Hearings Begin

The San Antonio City Council's first hearing on that proposal to mandate private employers provide paid sick leave to their full time workers is set for tomorrow, but businesses and business groups are already giving the Council an earful, and what they are saying is not music to supporters' ears, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"Just because the government mandates something doesn't mean that employers can pay for it," Annie Spillman, who heads the Texas Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small, mainly family owned employers, tells News Radio 1200 WOAI.

The labor union members and community organizers who circulated the petitions say there are an estimated 325,000 full time employees in San Antonio who are not paid if they call in sick.  They say they have to choose between losing a day's pay and going to work while sick, or in the middle of a child's medical emergency.

Spillman and other small business owners say it isn't just the cost of the actual sick leave pay.  She says most employers have some method of paying their workers in case of illness and emergency, even though it might not be the 'poorly thought out' proposal that is before City Council.

She says the real problem is the fact that it is a government mandate, and with any sort of government intervention comes compliance, which is frequently more expensive than the mandate itself.

"Compliance for small businesses, it costs small businesses a lot more than it costs larger businesses just to comply with the regulation."

She says any government regulation will spawn armies of bureaucrats that will fan out to search through the financial records of small business owners, investigate complaints filed by employees, and require small companies, which generally already operate on thin profit margins, to hire accountants, lawyers, and other compliance specialists. Spillman says the cost of that, plus the cost to the taxpayers of the bureaucrats who will enforce the new law, will probably end up being far more than the cost of the sick pay itself.

She points out that problems are already popping up in Austin, which approved a similar measure, which she says is the work of 'out of state labor union bosses' earlier this year.  

It is set to kick in in October, but is being challenged in court by, among other groups, the NFIB.

"We've even gotten some employers in Austin, who, before this is even implemented in Austin, will have to completely change their operations, their payroll, their employee handbook, and there is a lot of cost that goes into it."

San Antonio City Council has the option of approving the mandate itself, like Austin City Council did, or placing it on the ballot in November for a public vote.

Spillman says San Antonio City Council needs to also expect to become a defendant in the lawsuit NFIB is alrady pursuing over the issue.  And, the Texas Legislature is set to consider whether to overturn all 'mandatory sick leave' municipal ordinances when it meets in January.

But observers say overturning the laws would be far easier for the Legislature if the ordinance is approved by Council rather than voted in by citizens, all of whom are also constituents of the Legislators who will consider overturning what will be seen as 'the will of the people.'


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