Rhodes was joined by three other business owners and Doug Hall, Director of Fiscal and Economic Policy and the Economic Progress Institute (EPI), at Hudson Street Deli to talk about the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act. The bill, if passed, would provide all workers in Rhode Island with the ability to earn up to seven paid sick days to take care of their health needs, take care of a loved one, and to escape domestic violence.“This is a basic protection,” said Bryan Rinebolt, who owns the Hudson Street Deli with his wife, Chrissy Tek. “When working people or their family members get sick, they are forced to decide whether they can afford to lose a day’s pay to get the care they need. As the owner of a business where food is served, I don’t want my employees to have to be in that position. I also don’t want them to come in sick when they are handling food, and I know my customers don’t want that, either.
“I called my payroll company, told them I wanted to set this up, emailed them this document, and that was it. The policy was in place. The sick time my staff earns is easily tracked along with their hours.”“The findings of all this research has been clear,” said Doug Hall. “Giving workers this basic workplace right has no negative effect on jobs or employment. Economies continue to grow and jobs continue to be added across industries.”
The Rhode Island Earned Sick Days Campaign is pushing hard for this legislation to pass this year. They provided research to support the legislation. For instance, research finds consistently high levels of support among business owners after sick day legislation is passed. In Connecticut over three-quarters of business owners supported the policy a year and a half after it was enacted and employment grew in industries like hospitality, food service, and retail, where the most changes occurred.
Cost-benefit analysis from the Institute for Women’s Policy and Research estimates that after costs, the reduction of employee turnover and reduced illness in the workplace would net Rhode Island business annual savings of $2.9 million. Additionally, the study showed that with a greater ability to care for others and to treat illness early, the community would save an additional $5.9 million as expenses such as hospital stays and the reliance on emergency rooms for medical treatment are reduced.
“To attract and retain quality workers in every sector, the state needs to build a reputation as a desirable place to live and work,” said Susan Council, a human resources professional and business consultant. “It needs a vibrant, resilient workforce for business owners to tap into. Legislation that improves the quality of life and supports working parents must be advanced.”
“I think there are many businesses in Rhode Island that would like to put more comprehensive workplace protections and quality of life policies in place, but are afraid they will be put at a disadvantage with their competitors in the state if they do so,” said Jason Chooporian, who works in the health care field. “Passing a universal earned sick day policy would put those fears to rest. We need legislation to accomplish this goal and give thousands of workers the coverage they deserve. Sometimes, the foundations of a better workplace require that all of us pull in the same direction.”
The legislation is popular with voters, with over 80 percent of Rhode Islanders in support says the Rhode Island Earned Sick Days Campaign coalition. If passed, Rhode Island will join a number of other states and municipalities, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont, that have already enacted earned paid sick days policies.
Representatives Joseph Solomon (Democrat, District 22, Warwick) and Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence) attended the round table.
The Rhode Island Earned Sick Days Campaign is a supported by groups including AARP, Rhode Island Center for Justice, Economic Progress Institute, Fuerza Laboral, Jobs with Justice, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Rhode Island Chapter of the National Organization for Women, Rhode Island Working Families, RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence, RI SEIU State Council, SEIU 32BJ-District 615, District 1199 SEIU New England, Teamsters Local 251, UNITE HERE-Local 26, United Nurses and Allied Professionals and Women’s Fund of RI.