Wolf’s ‘intrusive’ & ‘nonsensical’ sick leave entreaty

Wolf’s ‘intrusive’ & ‘nonsensical’ sick leave entreaty

Just in time for Labor Day, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has called on the General Assembly to mandate that employers offer paid sick leave to all employees in the Keystone State.

“Pennsylvanians are working hard, especially during this pandemic, and they should not have to choose between losing a day’s pay or going to work sick,” Wolf said in a news conference. “It’s time for the General Assembly to stand up for Pennsylvania’s workers and protect the health of all Pennsylvanians.”

Well, first off, far fewer Pennsylvanians have been “working hard during this pandemic.” And, in large part, that’s because of Wolf’s arbitrary, capricious and secret dealings to, initially, decree what businesses were “essential” and could operate during the early stages of the pandemic.

But to this day, far fewer Pennsylvanians are employed because of Wolf’s equally arbitrary and capricious state limits on how fully many businesses – especially restaurants – can operate.

Wolf certainly did not give tens of thousands of workers in Pennsylvania any choice about losing not only a day’s pay but, in too many cases, any pay (other than unemployment pay, that is).

That said, Wolf’s entreaty to the state Legislature “to stand up for Pennsylvania’s workers and protect the health of all Pennsylvanians” does not pass the basic sniff test.

As the Allegheny Institute noted last summer regarding the state Supreme Court’s affirmation of a paid sick leave law in Pittsburgh:

“The mandate likely will impose significant costs on businesses, many of which already operate on thin margins. There also are serious questions about the efficacy of the measure’s stated goal of improving public health.”

Five years ago, when Pittsburgh first proposed its sick-leave ordinance, Jake Haulk, now the think tank’s president-emeritus, noted (in Policy Brief Vol. 15, No. 35) that mandatory paid sick leave represents “added regulatory costs (that) will hasten the demise of (small, start-up businesses) that might have otherwise made it and grown into a business that could offer, on its own volition, paid sick leave.”

Continued Haulk, a Ph.D. economist:

“How does the city know if a certain business with 18 employees can better afford the greater paid leave requirements than other businesses with 14 employees?”

It’s a reference to the 15-employee threshold at which mandatory sick leave must be offered.

“This is government hubris at its absolute worst.” Haulk stressed. “Businesses with plans to boost hiring beyond the 15-employee level might well ditch the plans because of the escalation in paid leave benefits for all its employees.”

That could inflate prices or force affected businesses to move outside Pittsburgh’s city limits. And for those that stay? Paying the prescribed fine could be less than offering sick leave.

And there’s a considerable body of evidence that paid sick leave does not improve the public health.

In a 2014 study, The Freedom Foundation in Washington state evaluated 10 of the most important and widely cited studies from both supporters and opponents of mandatory paid sick leave.

“Government sick leave mandates … fail to prevent employees from coming to work sick, ostensibly the most basic goal of such requirements,” concluded study author Max Nelsen.

“Critically, no evidence indicates that paid sick leave regulations noticeably reduce presenteeism,” he continued. “If the policy fails to achieve a reduction in the frequency of employees coming to work while sick, then all of the public health justifications offered by labor activists, however persuasive, are invalid.”

Intrusive and nonsensical government is the Wolf push for mandatory statewide sick leave. Sound public policy it is not – at any level. And that’s in “normal” times, let alone government-twisted pandemic times.

As Haulk further noted just after Wolf’s mandatory paid sick-leave announcement:

“It is also ironic that many if not most businesses that will be affected by such an order are low-margin or small businesses such as restaurants, retailers and personal services providers that have been devastated by Wolf’s Covid-19 orders. They are already at the edge of bankruptcy or permanently closing.

“Talk about lack of awareness or any respect for people who start and run businesses that give many poorly educated and disadvantaged a chance to work and gain a sense of self-worth and accomplishment,” he concludes.

Happy Labor Day, eh?

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).