Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Sick Solution

As expected, the mandatory paid-sick-leave ordinance is problematic. And as I predicted, the RadioMouths are blaming the Heinemann closure on the ordinance (ignorantly), but the problem is hardly confined to businesses which are on the bubble (as was Heinie's).

McIlheran happens to write about the issue.

...the ordinance makes Milwaukee workers more expensive - another $100,000 a year for Capitol [Stampings], Wenzel [the President of the Company] estimates. "We'd very strongly consider moving that work," said Wenzel. He'd rather not: He serves on a group promoting the 30th St. industrial corridor. Still, "we just can't pass that on to our customers," not when the plant competes with China.

And it's not just manufacturing.

...Take construction, which employs about 20,000 people in southeastern Wisconsin. Many of the big contractors are unionized. On average, such contractors pay tradesmen about $45 an hour, including benefits.

...That work force doesn't get paid sick leave. It's just never been part of the bargain, say union guys and contractors. Contracts include money in other ways. Many put extra "vacation" pay in union-run accounts from which workers can draw when they're off - for whatever reason, including illness.

That last phrase contains the real solution to the problem, for most businesses: informally allow paid sick-days by calling it "vacation," which is usually paid.

There are limits. A lot of very small businesses don't offer paid vacations. Sick time is unpredictable, meaning that scheduling will be a problem. But of course, scheduling already IS a problem when someone gets sick, right?

The real nutcracker? Right here:

It's all enforced by legal complaint, via lawyer. "It's going to be open season on employers after Feb. 10," as one consultant put it.

Informal, trusting employment relationships are history when the lawyers get into it, and there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution.

So yes, unless MMAC is successful at obtaining the injunction and then defeating the ordinance in court, there will be one of two results: either more costs will be passed on to customers (if the customers choose to pay them), or less businesses will be operating in the City of Milwaukee.

Not a good way to go into a recession.

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