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California's latest 'job killer' outrage

Laws and LegislationBusinessDonald P. WagnerPoliticsLobbyingMichael Bloomberg
Forget the 'job killer' label; minimum-wage increases have not caused big job losses
Stop the screw-the-workers propaganda machine

There they go again.

Whenever anyone floats an idea that would improve the lives of workers — shorter hours, higher wages or better working conditions — employers claim they'll be forced to fire people.

They're always wrong. But they never give up.

The California Chamber of Commerce, which represents business, has elevated this argument to a media event. This year's annual "job killer" list features 26 bills the organization would like to kill. (Last year, the chamber helped kill 37 of the 38 bills on its hit list.)

Among the "killer 26" is AB 1522, sponsored by Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat. Gonzalez's bill would guarantee California workers at least three paid sick days a year. (The exact formula is one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.)

To hear employers whine, you'd think that letting employees stay home sick less than 1% of the year — as opposed to dragging themselves to their jobs where they may infect coworkers and customers — would destroy the capitalist system.

Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner (R-Irvine) called the bill an "ill-considered, heavy-handed, one-sided piece of legislation," Melanie Mason reported in The Times.

A similar law recently went into effect in New York over the objections of the city's billionaire then-mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who argued that sick leave laws "hurt small businesses and stifle job creation."

But there's a problem with the Chamber of Commerce "job killer" talking point: It's baseless. There's no evidence that requiring companies to provide paid sick leave hurts business. A year and a half after such a law went into effect in Connecticut, for example, a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that "the impact of the new law on business has been modest … nearly two-thirds said it had led to no change or an increase of less than 2% in their overall costs. About another 12% didn't know how much their costs had increased."

"Virtually none [of the companies] reported reducing wages," the authors wrote. "About 90% did not reduce their workers' hours; 85% did not find it necessary to raise prices."

Job killer? Job annoyer, at most.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s City Council voted for a major increase in the minimum wage, to $15 an hour, prompting predictions that similar wage hikes could spread across the nation. As usual, pro-business extremists are predicting doom. "Seattle’s economy will be hurt by this policy and so will some low-skill workers who will lose their jobs thanks to the people claiming to be helping them," Jeffrey Dorfman writes in Forbes.

In the real world, however, minimum-wage increases have not caused big job losses — even in hamlets like SeaTac, Wash., where restaurants and other low-wage employers could seemingly pick up and move a few miles away.

Courtesy of the big business lobby, that's the screw-the-workers propaganda machine for you. Why let facts get in the way of the eternal quest for an extra buck?

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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