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Connecticut Business Sickened by Bad LABOR BILLS

Like bad medicine, no amount of honey can hide the bad taste. Connecticut legislators are poised to pass several laws that will raise the cost of doing business and living in Connecticut.  

Two pernicious bills, S.B. 6668 and S.B. 1178, mandate expanded paid sick time for employees of small businesses. If passed, the General Assembly would effectively be functioning as a labor union, completely ignoring their obligation to taxpayers.  

The language in both bills is almost identical, with S.B. 1178 expanding the way employees can utilize paid sick leave beyond their immediate family. The bill requires employers to allow for paid time off for employees to care for someone the employees themselves determine “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of any such family relationship.” 

This language extends the definition of family beyond even the most generous collective bargaining terms for sick leave use in most (if not all) municipal and state contracts. Employers may elect to do this with their employees already. Mandating it puts government’s thumb on the scale in the relationship between employees and job creators,  and puts government in the middle of what should be a private agreement.  

H.B. 6668 dictates that employers with a workforce of 11 or more employees must provide 40 hours of paid leave. The bill likewise threatens to have an economic impact on businesses with 10 or fewer employees by mandating they provide 40 hours of unpaid leave. The Governor’s bill also creates additional administrative processes that permit the CT Department of Labor Commissioner to hold administrative hearings and levy fines for violations.  

S.B. 1178 also requires all employers provide 80 hours of paid leave for every employee each year and provides penalties and civil action through the Attorney General’s office for failure to keep accurate balances of employee leave records. The bill creates additional bureaucratic administrative process through the Labor Commissioner’s office that can result in a host of damages and fines. 

These are burdens Connecticut’s small businesses simply shouldn’t have to shoulder. The mandates in these bills are likely to be the last straw for many small businesses already struggling to stay afloat, and absent from the discussion is any mechanism to hold employees accountable who choose to abuse paid sick leave. 

Paid sick leave is a substantial cost driver in public sector. It is not unusual for managers to turn a blind eye to abuse, knowing elected officials often don’t ask hard questions or demand to see spreadsheets that would indicate if paid sick time is being taken improperly — say, to extend long weekends, which runs afoul of mutually-agreed labor negotiations. 

For those who suspect this is unfair assessment, ask your local and state officials for breakdowns of government worker time. The findings can be alarming. The New Haven Fire Department, for instance, negotiated for a policy on sick notes from a doctor’s office before sick time would be approved. Time off decreased by over 23% after the change. 

An FOI request of State Representative Anthony Nolan’s personnel file from the New London Police Department reveals his great work in positive outreach and interacting with the community. But there were other findings, as well.  

Records indicate he requested leave, but it was denied due to staffing requirements. In response, he took leave because he was “sick.” After photos of him at a wedding were posted to Facebook despite his alleged illness, a diligent manager reported it up the chain of command. The incident resulted in a counseling session with no suspension and no restoration of the cost to the taxpayers. 

Connecticut needs managers to hold managers and employees accountable. Giving a blank check for days off without any controls to protect the business is wrong and will only hurt business.  

The bills at issue fail to consider the financial situations of small businesses. They impose additional administrative requirements on employers and even eliminate exceptions for nonprofits and manufacturing. 

This legislation even dictates benefits for part-time workers who work 30 hours per week — allowing employees to accumulate 1 hour of leave per every 30 hours worked. This will discourage employers from hiring part-time workers, eliminating a badly-needed source of income for many people. 

These bills from the Governor’s office and the Labor Committee are completely one-sided. 

Government must balance workers’ interests with those of taxpayers, citizens, and job creators, and should leave it to labor organizations to serve as workers’ advocates. 

It’s worth noting that the National Labor Relations Act already provides private employees robust organizing rights to workers in our state. We recently witnessed local organizing drives at Starbucks, resulting in a new unionized workforce where employees can bargain with their employer.  

Private negotiations allow workers and job creators alike to work out mutually agreeable solutions to their issues. By contrast, through these bills, state government is imposing mandates without benefit of specialized knowledge or experience, acting as employees’ partisans without regard for the needs of the Connecticut economy or small business.  

Mandating sick days will increase the costs of doing business, which is likely to be passed on both to consumers in the form of higher prices and to employees in the form of reduced wages or hours. It could also lead to negative economic consequences such as job losses, reduced investment, and decreased competitiveness. It will certainly deter new companies from deciding to locate in Connecticut.  

What’s more, it presumes that employees prefer expanded benefits to more take-home pay. Isn’t it possible that many people would prefer higher salaries over added benefits? And shouldn’t the state allow employees to make these decisions for themselves?  

Such arbitrary regulations create inequities in the employee/employer relationship that can result in job cuts, barriers to growth and erosion of the state’s tax bases. For Connecticut to flourish, our small businesses must be able to prosper and compete with the big chains that can better absorb such expensive new regulations. 

Increasing the Cost of Everything You Order
 S.B. 152 which is another intrusion into the free market to eliminate “unreasonable” quotas for warehouse workers. This feel-good measure also has unintended consequences. 

Productivity quotas do require employees to be productive, and, yes, overly burdensome ones could be harmful to workers. But businesses are already incentivized to keep workers safe. Most employers personally care for their employees, but even the least empathetic boss doesn’t want an injured worker because it results in lost time, decreased productivity and increased insurance rates. 

A warehouse that uses a quota matrix to measure work can evaluate worker efficiencies, thereby making the business more productive and profitable, which in turn enables improved working conditions and increased employee pay.   

In the case of S.B. 152, government’s heavy hand reduces productivity, increases costs and decreases the ability of Connecticut’s businesses to complete in the marketplace with out-of-state enterprises that are not subject to our laws. All private business are covered by wage and hour regulation and Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and going drastically beyond it harms our economy.   

The bill also ignores the current reality in Connecticut. It is not uncommon to see warehouses offering entry-level jobs well above minimum wage plus benefits, along with signing bonuses. Many of these companies also provide upward mobility to workers who excel, and provide incentives to meet quotas, which set clear productivity targets for workers to meet. 

A quota system in a warehouse setting ensures workers can produce at a sustainable pace, providing them with a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work while avoiding injury.  

In the end, S.B. 152 could result in more in-state businesses closing, fleeing our state or automating jobs sooner than they otherwise would. At the very least, it would deter new businesses from relocating to our great state.     

Unfortunately, the state legislature wants you to hold still and take your medicine while responsible businesses often finds themselves targeted by a state government that imposes needless regulations — without knowledge of or regard for the actual cost to workers and employers alike. The state should be supporting job creators — not indulging a grievance culture, where mediocrity is rewarded at the expense of responsible business owners and taxpayers alike.  

Frank Ricci

Frank was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case Ricci v. DeStefano and has testified before Congress. He has lectured at the Reagan Library and has been a lead consultant on several studies for the Yale School of Medicine. Frank has appeared on Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Cavuto Live, Hardball, NBC Nightly News, Fox & Friends, and other notable news shows. He is a contributing author to several books and a contributor to the Daily Caller. Frank retired as a Battalion Chief & Union President for New Haven Fire Fighters and has been awarded numerous commendations including the medal of valor. He serves on the advisory board for Fire Engineering Magazine. Frank lives with his wife in Wallingford, CT.

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