LPA Foundation
Advisor Stephen Moore

Advisor Stephen Moore

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Clinton, O’Malley, Sanders Offer Costly Paid Sick Leave Mandates

September 21, 2015

Well, it turns out Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders have one point of total agreement. The three declared hopefuls to win the Democratic nomination for president all agree with President Barack Obama that the federal government should force businesses to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave each year for their employees.

In wasn’t so long ago, during the Clinton administration, that mandatory medical leave was passed into law. Back in the 1990s Bill Clinton and liberals emphasized that this rule was no great hardship because it only required UNPAID leave.  But the day was sure to come when progressives moved on to mandatory PAID leave.

Obama and the Democratic wannabes point to the European nations that all have this "progressive" worker rights policy.  But they also generally have unemployment rates double ours and lower worker productivity.  How is that a model to be emulated?

‎There are good reasons many firms don't offer paid sick leave to all employees.  One is that slackers are more likely to call in sick if they can be paid for not showing up. We know from the federal disability benefits program that fraud is rampant when paychecks are offered for not working.  Disability payments are up almost 25 percent (check) since Obama became president and liberalized the benefits even though every statistic shows working on the job is safer, not less safe, than a decade ago and workplace accidents continues to decline.  Many businesses prefer to provide sick leave benefits to high-performing workers as a reward for diligence and hard work. Seven days of mandatory sick leave will encourage more workers to take a day off when they have a sniffle.

Who will pay the tab for the extra worker benefits now imposed on federal contractors?  Taxpayers, of course. This stroke of the pen could add tens of millions of dollars to the deficit as the cost of federal projects rises.  In a sane world, Obama would be finding ways to slash personnel expenses given that he runs an institution that is already $18.5 trillion in debt.

This whole debate is a diversion from the finding released last week by the Census Bureau that family income has declined since Obama became president. Most workers don't want sick leave nearly as much as they want a raise.

Obama and his National Labor Relations Board have made a habit of mandating work place rules by the stroke of a pen. These include mandatory overtime pay, assaults against franchise employers, minimum wage hikes, rules about hiring gays and transgender workers, and now sick leave. The Obamacare rule requiring businesses with 50 workers to provide health insurance has killed jobs and reduced incomes.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton said last week that Democrats are the party of "the working class." Then why are so many in the working class feeling sick about their wages and take home pay?

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a co-founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, and a policy advisor to the Leadership Project for America Foundation.