GOP amendment would undermine benefits of earned paid sick days Maine’s workers and economy

A proposal to expand access to earn paid sick days would be watered down significantly if Republican lawmakers get their way.

The original plan, LD 369, presented by State Senator Rebecca Millet would cover 87 percent of private-sector workers. It does so while exempting small businesses employing five or fewer employees – roughly 60 percent of all Maine businesses.

The GOP amendment, released by State Senator Stacy Guerin on Tuesday, would result in fewer Mainers being eligible to earn paid sick leave, reduced coverage for those who are eligible, and longer waits before employees could use the paid sick days they’d earned. It would undermine the economic and health benefits of paid sick days by leaving more Mainers vulnerable to sudden income loss as a result of illness or injury.

Everyone gets sick, and we all deserve time to get better. Lawmakers should reject this late effort to undermine earned paid sick days for Maine workers.

By exempting larger businesses, GOP plan leaves more Mainers at risk

Across the board, the GOP proposal weakens potential benefits for eligible Maine workers and would exclude 57,000 from gaining access to paid sick days entirely. It does so primarily by increasing the carveout to exclude workers at any business with 15 or fewer employees. It also makes workers under 18 years old, seasonal workers, and per-diem and on-call workers exempt from the right to paid sick days regardless of the size of their employer.

As a result, the Republican plan would reduce LD 369’s coverage from 87 percent of the private-sector workforce under to 76 percent.

GOP plan results in fewer paid sick days, and a longer wait to use them

The Republican alternative also would cause 133,000 part-time workers to lose guaranteed access to the maximum amount of earned paid sick days under the proposed law.

The plan slows the rate of accrual from one hour of paid sick time per 30 hours worked to one hour of paid sick time per 50 hours worked. While full-time workers earn sick days more slowly, this reduced accrual rate would still allow them to earn — and if necessary, use — that maximum allowance of 40 hours per year. But those working less than full-time, or working full-time for only part of the year, will be unable to earn the maximum benefit under the GOP amendment.

A greater share of employees who work less than year-round would also be excluded under the Republican plan released by Senator Guerin on Tuesday. Their plan increases the wait period before a worker can use the paid sick time they’ve earned from 90 days to 150 days. That means seasonal workers at jobs that last fewer than five months would not be allowed to use any sick leave during their period of employment.

The key provisions of the two proposals are outlined below:

 20172018% Change
Median household income$60,336$61,937+2.7%
Median earnings$33,646$35,291+4.9%

Workers in poorer, rural areas are most likely to be left behind

Mainers who live in poorer, rural regions are more likely to work at smaller businesses. By increasing the carveout based on business size, the Republican plan makes it more likely that workers in more rural parts of the state won’t have access to paid sick time.

 20172018% Change
Median household income$56,227$55,602-1.2%
Median earnings$31,552$32,906+4.3%

Source: MECEP analysis of Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2016-18 using IPUMS.

Conclusion

The Republican proposal would undermine access to earned paid sick days for tens of thousands of Mainers. Their approach contradicts the evidence from other states and cities such as Connecticut, Vermont, Jersey City, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle that have demonstrated the benefits of paid sick time for businesses and workers.

Everyone gets sick. No one should have to choose between their income and their health or the health of their family. LD 369 is already a reasonable compromise to expand access to earned paid sick days while exempting the smallest Maine businesses. Lawmakers should resist the urge to water it down by adopting the Republican amendment.