The 2017 Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit (which I wrote about here) was, as its name implies, extremely pro-business. Within limits, this is fine I suppose, but many who spoke at the Summit advocated for extreme ideological economic positions that are both classist and anti-worker. Check out this slice of video featuring North Smithfield Town Administrator Gary Ezovski:
“Additional labor management dictates from government will not help us grow or sustain our opportunity,” said Ezovski, “We ask that you not mandate predictive scheduling or sick time pay.
“We know the value of our employees. Whether we’re… in the public sector… or… in the private sector. We know that we have to take care of our employees. We don’t need government to remind us that it should be done in a particular way. We want to do it in a way that works for our businesses and for our employees. Trust business to do business and run business instead of trying to mandate in so many ways.
“And with that, let’s go to holiday flexibility that we’ve talked about in the past. The northeast has this rigid requirement that tells us how to handle holidays that we need to get away from and give flexibility. Businesses will allow and encourage their people to enjoy holidays. They don’t need to be mandated to do it in the way that we do it with overtime pay requirements and permit requirements as they exist in the state today.”
Fair scheduling laws are popping up around the country in response to companies scheduling employees in unfair ways. Many workers are not scheduled to work, but are instead placed “on call” and given an hour’s notice as to whether they will be working a shift or not. This means that it becomes expensive and difficult to schedule transportation or childcare. If a worker has two jobs (as is needed by low-wage workers to survive) such scheduling can lead to impossible scheduling conflicts and cost the worker money they could have made if their work schedules were “predictive” and “fair.”
Of course, business owners and managers love the scheduling the way it is. It allows them to minimize their payroll expenses because they can call people in with an hour’s notice and send them home when they please. Despite Ezovski’s statement that business owners, “know that we have to take care of our employees” the fact is that most business owners and managers have no sense of duty to their employees. They only care about the bottom line, and the employees are the tools they use to satisfy that need.
Ezovski is also opposed to sick pay. Sick pay is something most middle-class employees utilize and are grateful for. It means that when they are sick, they can stay home for a day and not lose the money they need to pay their rent and feed their kids. Ironically, most workers in the service industry don’t have sick pay. When they are sick, they either stay home and suffer the consequences of missing a day’s work and losing a day’s pay, or they come to work sick.
Think of that the next time you eat at Johnny Rockets or order a pizza. The employee who made your food might have had to come to work with the flu. Setting up a system where low-wage employees can have paid sick days makes it better for everyone. Yet Ezovski opposes sick days for employees because we should, “trust business to do business and run business.”
If Ezovski simply opposed commonsense legislative reforms that will improve the economic lives of thousands of Rhode Island workers and contribute positively to the health of everyone in the state, that would be stupid enough, but Ezovski also wants to roll back overtime pay for working on holidays, something retail employees in Rhode Island count on and need.
“Businesses will allow and encourage their people to enjoy holidays,” says Ezovski, as if this is a right to be granted by business, and not something workers can do on their own. Ezovski’s call for “holiday flexibility” is a call for business to have the right to grant or deny the right to enjoy holidays as it profits them. Worse, Ezovski would see holiday pay reduced through the elimination of overtime pay, an effective pay cut for all low-wage employees and a gift to business owners.
Ezovski has long been an advocate for regulatory reform that will advance and enrich business owners at the expense of workers. According to the Valley Breeze, “In 2001, he was chairman of the board of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. In 2007, he was named chair of the Regulations Subcommittee of the Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit and in 2012, he was appointed to the Small Business Association’s Region I Regulatory Fairness Board, two roles he continues to hold. He was previously a member of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council Board of Trustees and was co-chair of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Business Round Table.”
Ezovski is also an advisor to the energy astroturfing group the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy and sits on the Commission to Study the Upgrade of Facilities by Encouraging Private Investment in Qualifying Projects, which is a legislative commission in Rhode Island seeking to sell off control of public assets to private companies. I’ve written about that here.
You can review the entirety of Ezovski’s comments in the video below: