Should voters support Ballot Question 4?
Elijah Romulus, a Brockton resident who is marketing director of South Shore Haitians United for Progress and a community leader with Brockton Interfaith Community
Massachusetts voters need to vote yes on Question 4 in November's election.
Today in our state, almost 1 million hard-working people can't take one day of sick time to take care of themselves or a sick child without risking losing their job.
Every day I hear stories of what this means. A mother who is fired from her job because she had to take her child to the hospital. A man with an eye infection who's afraid to call out of work for fear of his hours being cut. A man who couldn't say goodbye to his dying mother because his employer told him that if he left early he shouldn't bother coming back.
That's why nearly 7,000 volunteers around the state collected signatures to put a question on the ballot that would guarantee access to earned sick time for all workers in Massachusetts.
Question 4 would allow workers at companies with 10 or fewer employees to earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time. Workers at companies with 11 or more employees would earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time. And Question 4 protects employees from being fired or penalized just for using their earned sick time.
In today's 24-7 economy, so many are struggling to balance work, family, and life's many challenges. The least we can do is ensure that people are able to deal with the inevitable reality of a personal health issue, a sick child, or family illness without fear of losing their job.
The economic reasons to pass Question 4 are clear. Many businesses support earned sick time because it reduces employee turnover, increases productivity, and helps their bottom line. States and municipalities that have implemented earned sick time have seen job growth, and most employers report no negative impact on their profitability.
As a community leader working with people across the South Shore, I see firsthand just how many people this question will positively impact. Voting yes on Question 4 is voting to help workers be better employees and better family members. If you think Massachusetts families deserve better, then vote yes on Question 4.
Bill Vernon, a Norton resident who is Massachusetts director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and a former state representative
Question 4, if passed, will hurt Massachusetts small businesses and our state's economy because this question – driven by a big national labor union — would saddle Massachusetts with the most rigid mandate in the country.
Most employers already offer some type of paid leave for full-time employees. Question 4 would apply to all workers, including part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers. The 16-year-old youth working in his first job at a mom & pop restaurant, the college student working on campus, the seasonal state employee with a summer job, and all taxpayer-subsidized contract employees would be given sick leave.
Question 4 would eliminate any flexibility for small-business owners to determine their own paid-leave policies, as well as the compensation and other benefits for workers.
One size does not fit all. Many work settings are far different from offices because operations in some businesses must be fully staffed at all times to prevent disruptions in customer service or to meet mandatory staffing levels. In those cases, a replacement worker must be brought in, doubling the payroll for that position. Question 4 would also allow employees to take leave without any notice to the employer in as little as one- and two-hour increments for their own illness or to care for sick family members. This would be disruptive to the employer, to other workers, and to customers, as well as give employers a record-keeping nightmare.
Massachusetts residents and business owners already pay the highest health insurance premiums and electric rates in the country, and some of the highest taxes and fees. Question 4 will only increase costs for small-business owners and taxpayers and lose jobs for the state. One study concludes the state will lose as many as 16,000 jobs (concentrated in our job creators — small businesses) over the next decade.
Sick leave for workers is important, but Question 4, as written, will only lead to serious hidden and unintended consequences for our state's small-business owners, workers, and their families. Let's do more than talk about the value of small business; let's act to support them by voting no on Question 4.
As told to John Laidler. He can be reached at email@example.com.