After an emotional debate on Tuesday, Prince George’s County Council decided not to pass a bill that would have mandated paid sick-leave for all employees in the county.
According to the Washington Post, paid sick-leave is already mandated in several neighboring counties, including Montgomery, though opponents of the bill in Prince George’s feel as if the decision for a sick-leave bill should be made at the state level.
“We don’t want to see businesses choosing other counties in the state because we have a requirement they don’t have,” said the council chairman, Mel Franklin.
Proponents of the bill point to basic human rights, stressing the importance of the bill for low-wage workers whose children may become sick. Opponents maintain that it puts an undue burden on businesses.
Savvy business owners are constantly looking for ways to work around paid sick-leave, considering the money they would have to spend on replacement and temp workers.
A common, less expensive strategy is to disperse employees throughout the workplace to stymie airborne illness. In a recent study of more than 2,400 employees, researchers found that as the number of people working in a single room went up, the number of employees who took sick leave increased.
As for now, employees are still in tight quarters, and illnesses happen. Council member Deni Taveras disputes the qualms of business owners who believe it would cost them money, and suggests that, if anything, the legislation would attract more talented employees to local businesses, thus increasing revenues.
“We want to make sure these are jobs people want to have,” said Taveras.
Taveras goes on to say that she remembers being a low-wage, part-time worker herself and wants to fight for the people who now find themselves in the shoes she once wore.
“I am the people I represent,” she said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a whopping 98% of full-time workers across the country are privy to paid sick-leave, while only 42% of part-time workers have access to those same benefits.
At the end of the day, the only members of the council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee who supported the legislation were Taveras and Karen R. Toles, who were both co-sponsors of the bill.
Proponents of the bill say they will bring it to the state level and continue to fight for paid sick-leave, both in Prince George’s County and all throughout Maryland.
The bill’s main sponsor, council member Mary A. Lehman, was visibly upset after the meeting, but made a point to remind others that this was not the end of the road.
“I’m very disappointed,” Lehman said. “We’re not giving up.”