Meet the Heartless Jerk Leading a Project to Eliminate Sick Leave

Rick Berman, who is proud to be called "Dr. Evil," is going after paid leave.

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Opponents of paid sick leave, like opponents of raising the minimum wage, tend to keep their arguments data-free, sticking to vague claims of how bad it would be for small business, no evidence offered. But every now and then they decide to try to make their arguments look factual. Look being the key word. That's the story with the latest from one of Rick Berman's many front groups, the Employment Policies Institute, a laughably weak (PDF) "pilot study of businesses' responses" to Connecticut's paid sick leave law that completely ignores the actual facts of what's happened in Connecticut's economy since the law was passed.

The Berman EPI, which just happens to share its initials with the Economic Policy Institute, a reputable and widely cited progressive think tank, would like the takeaway from its pilot study to be that, because of Connecticut's paid sick leave law, businesses are raising prices, laying off workers, and curtailing hiring or expansion in the state. The real takeaway, of course, is that even when they try to make themselves look like they care about facts, anti-worker astroturf organizations can't do any better than a weak truthiness. Take the methodology here. Evil-EPI sent a survey to "roughly 800" of the businesses "most likely to be impacted by the law." The response rate was below 20 percent, so basically, we're talking about the most pissed off fraction of the small fraction of business owners identified as probably caring about this law. And, predictably, they see dire, dire consequences for paid sick leave.

The reality? Employment in the two industry sectors most likely to be affected by the sick leave law rose in Connecticut in 2012. Just as, following the passage of a paid sick leave law in San Francisco (PDF), that city did better than the surrounding counties on several employment measures.

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Another reality is this: In March, 2011, the owner of the U.S.S. Chowder Pot restaurants testified before the state legislature that if paid sick leave became law, "I would be forced to close both restaurants resulting in a loss of approximately 240 full time and part time jobs." Today, both restaurants are hiring. Similarly, one of the partners in The Hartford Restaurant Group, hitting the small business angle hard despite his company owning eight restaurants, said paid sick leave was "unreasonable and not practical, and most likely would stunt any growth opportunities." You know, growth like opening another restaurant and buying a large building for storage and corporate offices, which The Hartford Restaurant Group has done.

The evidence shows that paid sick leave does not hurt businesses. Meanwhile, it keeps workers from having to choose between going to work sick and paying the bills, and it offers public health benefits. So when you hear all these dire predictions from restaurant owners and industry groups, take them for what they are: ideological arguments from low-wage employers who just don't want to treat their workers any better.