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The Argument

Should voters approve Ballot Question 4?

Should voters in November approve Ballot Question 4, which would entitle employees in Massachusetts to earn and use sick time under certain conditions?

YES

Susan Tousignant, Dracut resident and President of the Massachusetts Union for Human Service Workers & Educators

Have you ever delayed a doctor’s appointment to avoid the loss in pay? Scrambled to find care for a sick child sent home from school? Gone to work ill because you can’t afford to lose the hours?

Susan TousignantHandout

If so, you’re not alone. In fact, nearly a million Massachusetts workers can’t take even one day of paid sick time to care for themselves or a loved one — that’s one in three families across the Commonwealth. And in communities from Somerville to Salisbury, up to 40 percent of working families lack earned sick time.

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On Election Day, we have a chance to reverse this dangerous trend by voting “Yes” on Question 4. This important ballot initiative will guarantee access to earned sick time for all working families – eliminating the impossible decisions many parents currently make between taking care of their children and the job that puts food on the table.

Question 4 allows workers the time they need to take care of themselves and their families without fear of losing hours, pay, or even their jobs. When we vote “Yes” on Question 4, workers at companies with more than 10 employees will earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time to visit the doctor or care for sick family members. Workers in smaller businesses of 10 or fewer employees can earn the same amount of unpaid sick time. Perhaps most importantly, Question 4 protects employees from being fired or disciplined just for using the sick time they’ve earned.

Neighboring states like Connecticut have joined communities from Washington, D.C. to Seattle in implementing earned sick time initiatives, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Job growth has been higher than surrounding communities, employee productivity has risen, and businesses have seen reduced staff turnover. It’s no wonder Massachusetts’s major employers like Cape Air and Steward Health Care support Question 4 – the initiative makes good business sense while promoting the health of our communities.

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These successful employers and many others already provide earned sick time, so they won’t be affected. But for the remaining million workers who don’t have access to sick days, the time is now.

If you believe worker families deserve time to care for their health and the health of their loved ones – without fear of retaliation – vote for this commonsense initiative on Election Day. Vote “Yes” on Question 4.

NO

David Cormier, Burlington resident

Approving this ballot question would harm the most important segment of our fragile recovering economy: small businesses.

David CormierHandout

We’ve all heard that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Shop local, buy local is a popular catch phrase in Massachusetts.

Currently, there is neither federal law nor state law that requires private sector employers to provide employees with paid or unpaid sick leave; a short-term salary continuation program for employees absent because of a non-job-related illness or injury (for companies subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act, the act does require unpaid sick time for certain medical situations).

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Although many employers do grant it as a popular employee benefit, this ballot initiative, if passed, would allow employees of employers with more than 10 employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year, regardless of whether those employees are part time, full time, temporary, or seasonal. For those employers with less than 11 employees, the sick time would be unpaid. Additionally, employees would be allowed to carry over up to 40 hours of accrued sick time every year.

Proponents say that the passage of this initiative would put money in workers’ pockets to spend in the community, and increase employee productivity and decrease turnover. What the proponents fail to state is the substantial burden such policy would have on small employers, not only in terms of payroll and administrative costs, but also in implementation and legal costs. These costs would not only chill the current hiring process, but also cause many small employers to simply go it alone or close up shop altogether, thereby reducing the amount of money in workers’ pockets and leaving workers in worse situations than they face without mandated sick time policies.

Proponents also like to point to the fact that Connecticut and a handful of municipalities have all implemented sick-time leave policies. Yet again, what they fail to say is that all these initiatives recognized that the burden to small business was truly unfair, and made provisions to mitigate the costs to small businesses.

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There are many alternatives to sick-leave policies, including flexible leave policies, no-fault attendance policies, leave donation programs, and paid time off banks.

Lastly, it should be noted that it wasn’t our elected officials who brought this initiative forward. Rather it was special interest groups. Whose interests are they really representing?