What to Think about Paid Sick Leave due to Covid-19
In the climate of COVID-19, where so many businesses have taken a hit, have had to let employees go, have applied for SBA loans and been refused, or have had to close doors, it’s hard to know what aspect of business to write about.
There are so many voices clamoring to be heard in this tidal wave of economic change, and developments are moving fast in terms of new policy measures for businesses, deadlines for applying for loans, and competing interests between business owners and the people they employ, that I had to step back a minute and think about what to write.
Paid Sick Leave due to Covid-19
Then when I received a call from the Mayor’s office of Los Angeles asking me what I think about the hotly contested Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Due to COVID-19 that was passed on April 7, 2020, I have to admit, I felt like I was lagging behind because I didn’t have a fully developed opinion on it.
Then it occured to me, nobody right now can call themselves an expert in such a novel and unprecedented economic crisis, although it seems to be a race to the top to do so!
Nobody in living memory can recall an incident that literally shut down the globe in a matter of days, much less how to deal with it!
At the same time my email is blowing up with webinar invites from the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood Chambers of Commerce urging me to oppose the Mayor’s public order in the name of the free market and keeping businesses in control of their own payroll decisions.
Take a moment to remember the hard work of building a business
My response, right or wrong, is to take a deep breath and give myself some time out and ask myself this one probing question: what can I, as owner of Equal Legal, do to contribute to the ongoing discussion in a meaningful way?
Even though I am a business owner myself, I can’t help feeling somewhat confounded by the Chamber of Commerce’s resistance to the proposal of businesses being forced to pay employees sick leave during this pandemic.
Are workers not part of our businesses?
Do they not contribute every day to the success of the owners?
Do they not devote their time, commitment and dedication to building up a business perhaps for years?
Do workers really deserve to find themselves without pay, left to fend a scary pandemic on their own?
I think of people I know who have been laid off, or news stories about sick workers who must go to work despite high fever, as they have no paid sick leave left.
I contemplate what our responsibilities are as business owners to the people we employ.
With unemployment claims reaching 30 million by May 1, International Workers Day, these questions have never been more poignant.
I am very aware that business owners are suffering great losses, and for many, being forced to pay sick leave may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
On the other hand it is hard to understand how giants such as Walmart, FedEx, Target, Instacart, Amazon, and Whole Foods Market who are profiting more than ever in this climate, are not treating their workers with more respect and dignity.
Workers from these stores are forming a coalition in several states to protest unfair and unsafe working conditions on May 1, and their demands appear to be reasonable:
- Backpay for unpaid time off
- Hazard pay or paid sick leave for the remainder of the pandemic
- For the companies to provide protective equipment and cleaning supplies at all times
- For increased transparency from the companies about the number of COVID-19 cases in their facilities
- These demands aren’t about wage increases, these demands concern life or death for the workers and their families who contribute to the companies’ profits and success
Why the unwillingness to acknowledge the contribution that employees and workers make to businesses?
The Paid Sick Leave order applies to businesses with 500 or more employees. If a business has that many employees, it’s clear they play a big role in the companies’ success and that the business would not be where it is without them.
So why the dehumanization of workers by downplaying their health concerns?
Do businesses assume workers can just be replaced? Like mechanical parts?
Is this really the world we want to live in? Cold. Stark. Unforgiving and void of compassion?
I would caution any business owner, including myself, against such naïve assumptions. Workers are human and have incredibly long memories.
Can we really assume that once this pandemic is over workers will return committed as ever to helping businesses make a profit after we have played with their lives? Will workers really be as loyal working with the grief of losing a loved one, knowing their lives weren’t protected or respected by the companies they worked for?
Or do we side with Mayor Travis Wimbush as he comments on the early opening up of local businesses in Blakely:
“I will not put the power of a dollar over the value of a life in any decision that I will make.”
There has never been a better time to say thank you to our workers
As International Workers Day arrives this Friday May 1, there is a strong call for us all to remember the workers who are supporting the bare bones of our economy right now. The workers who are on the frontlines of essential industries like healthcare, the workers who are out there risking their lives for a low wage.
I personally think what the world needs right now is appreciation and a sense of gratitude for these workers. How often do we thank our employees or independent contractors? Or even our Amazon delivery person?
I was overwhelmed with emotion on a brief visit to Long Beach the other evening when at 8 pm sharp all downtown Long Beach went into party mode from their windows and balconies, whistling, cheering, clapping and shouting. I didn’t get it at first, and then I remembered the video a friend had sent me of Brooklyn’s nightly applause for all the city’s essential workers.
I applauded with them from my heart, for this is exactly what our workers deserve right now; appreciation and respect.
I realized that this is how I can contribute most as a business owner right now. To remember the workers who build up our businesses and thank them for their commitment and devotion. No dollar amount can replace a heartfelt thank you for the hard work they do.
Hopefully we’ll remember to carry on thanking them when the pandemic is over, and hopefully they’ll remember our support when the going got tough and they’ll help us rebuild our lives and businesses.
We’re going to need them.
Let Me Know
What are you most grateful about your workers for (whether employees or contractors)? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to let them now too.
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