Morning Must Reads: 40 Million American Workers Get No Paid Sick Leave

The New York Times comes out strongly in favor of paid sick leave legislation in New York City. Looking at you, Philadelphia.

More than 40 million American workers get no paid sick leave. They have to work when ill or take unpaid sick days, which can lead to financial hardship, or, worse, dismissal. The best way to address this workplace and public health problem is with a national law requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave — a normal benefit for workers in at least 145 countries.

But since there is little hope for such progress anytime soon in Washington, New York City Council members are taking up the cause. At least 36 of 50 council members support a proposed city law that would require sick leave for more than 1.2 million workers. Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker, has refused to bring a bill to the floor, however.

She argues that the timing is bad given the weak economy and that the benefit could increase compensation costs for businesses by an average of 1.5 percent, which in her view would hurt smaller companies to the point of driving them out of business or out of the city. Some business leaders say that companies will cut jobs if even a few days of sick leave are required.

Little evidence to support such fears has been seen in San Francisco, the District of Columbia and the state of Connecticut, which require many businesses to provide the benefit. There are also economic benefits — lower turnover, higher productivity and morale, and reduced job loss for workers. But Ms. Quinn, who says she supports paid sick days in principle, does not want to consider a citywide sick-leave law until the economy is stronger...

This benefit is also good for public health. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that workers who could take sick leave instead of working while unwell were less likely to be hurt on the job.

American workers should have paid sick leave, and New York City could set a standard for the rest of the nation. Workers in the city deserve a sensible and humane sick-leave benefit now.

In case you missed it, there was a long article in The New York Times this weekend on the growth of foreign auto assembly in the United States and what that implies about the potential for on shoring of more electronics production. 

Dean Baker makes several excellent points about the economic policy positions debated in the article above.

The NYT ran a lengthy story on the possibilities of manufacturing electronics in the United States. Near the end of the piece it discusses divisions in the Obama administration on measures to try to bring more manufacturing back to the United States...

The piece tells readers: "along with many economists, Mr. Summers argued that an overly aggressive trade stance could hurt manufacturing — by, for instance, pushing up the price of imported steel used by carmakers — and over time, drive companies away. "

Actually, standard economic theory would argue that a lower valued dollar is exactly the mechanism through which the trade deficit should be brought down. In a system of floating exchange rates, the excess supply of currency on world markets from a deficit country like the United States is supposed to bring down the value of its currency. This makes its goods more competitive in world markets, reducing the size of its trade deficit.

The expected drop in the value of the currency is not taking place today with the dollar because a number of countries are buying up large amounts of dollars in order to prop up its value against their own currencies. By keeping the dollar over-valued they are able to sustain their trade surpluses with the United States...

It is also worth noting that the over-valued dollar policy supported by Summers acts to redistribute income from workers who are exposed to international competition, like manufacturing workers, and workers who are largely protected from international competition, like doctors, lawyers and other highly educated professionals. In other words, it can be seen as one of the policies that redistributes money from the 99 percent to the one percent.

Also this weekend, the second excerpt from the book The Betrayal of the American Dream appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

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