Sick leave bill the right thing - Albuquerque Journal

Sick leave bill the right thing

The lies have started.

Over the next three months, we can expect to hear an endless string of lies about the earned-sick-leave ordinance that will go to voters in October. But small business owners like me don’t want to listen to the lies of folks who put hard-line ideology before family and fairness.

I support the Healthy Workforce earned sick days act because I’ve always believed that business can’t thrive if you don’t put family first. I’m not just talking about my family. I mean my employees’ families, too.

I own Conchita’s Cafe, and earned sick leave is invaluable for my employees’ health and well-being, as well as their peace of mind whenever they had to care for a sick child or elderly parent. It’s also essential that I don’t make my own customers sick by letting sick employees handle food.

An outspoken minority is fighting the earned-sick-days measure with lies because that’s the only way they can win in October. Half of the people who work in Albuquerque can get fired for using a sick day or lose a day’s pay. Many choose to work sick, instead, at restaurants and retail establishments throughout the city. That’s why voters support this proposal.

Why should you believe me and not the people peddling lies?

Look at their record: The same folks said the Albuquerque minimum wage increase that voters approved in 2012 would kill local businesses. It didn’t. But they are still fighting this fight. The same groups filed suit this year to overturn the increase – even though it was passed with 66 percent of voters’ approval.

These groups actually believe that hard-working folks who earn only $352 per week should be make $300 instead. These folks believe more in their hard-core ideology than the reality that regular New Mexicans face every day, struggling to get by, earning $8.80 an hour.

The reality is that Albuquerque’s a better place if people earn a decent wage and can care for themselves and their loved ones when they’re sick.

Women who experience domestic violence should be able to file a police report, secure housing or seek medical help, using the sick days that they’ve earned. This is why the Healthy Workforce campaign needed to happen.

No one’s trying to trick anyone. The ordinance uses the same standards, definitions and enforcement language as most earned-sick-leave ordinances in San Diego, Philadelphia and dozens of other cities. Arizona’s earned-sick-days law, approved overwhelmingly by voters, will take effect in just a couple of weeks, and it, too, shares much of the language that Albuquerque’s proposed ordinance uses.

Does the ordinance stop an employer from firing an employee? Of course not. It has language to ensure that an employer has a reason for termination other than the use of earned sick days.

Does the ordinance prevent the city from making changes? No. The City Council can make minor adjustments, but if politicians want to undermine the will of the voters and water down the ordinance’s modest standards of earning one hour of sick time for every 30 worked, and using up to seven days of earned sick time per year – up to 5 days if you work for a small employer – they have to propose changes to the voters for their approval.

Albuquerque is tired of the race to the bottom that has left our state in tatters. It’s time to see if treating our employees well and respecting our families makes Albuquerque a stronger community. It has certainly made my business strong.


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