Ballot Question #4: Should MA Guarantee Sick Time to All Employees?

Posted by: Erin Ziomek

MA- The last of four ballot questions to be brought before Massachusetts voters on Tuesday, Ballot Question 4, or “Earned Sick Time for Employees” proposes 40 hours of paid or unpaid sick time guaranteed to all employees in the state, according to the official website of the Secretary of the Commonwealth (http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele14/pip144.htm).

Whether or not a worker’s sick time will be paid or unpaid will depend on the size of business; for example, the bill states those who work for small businesses (less than 11-employees) could earn 40 hours of unpaid sick time while employees of bigger businesses (11-or more) could earn 40 hours of paid sick time under the proposed law. The law would apply to both public and private employees.

The issue is hotly contested on both sides, with the organization Raise Up MA supporting a “Yes” vote in favor of earned sick time (http:// raiseupma.org/blog/), and the Massachusetts Retailers Association supporting a “No” vote against the proposal (http://retailersma.org/news/ballot-question-update).

According to the Boston Globe, proponents of Question 4 say that many workers in Massachusetts have to make a difficult choice between taking sick time to care for oneself and one’s family and going to work to earn a living. They also argue some employees face being fired for taking a day off out of their earned sick time. Opponents of Question 4 say guaranteeing the universal standards for earned sick time will weaken small businesses already struggling from a bad economy.  They argue such a law would put small employers out of business (http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2014/11/01/should-voters-november-approve-ballot-question-which-would-entitle-employees-massachusetts-earn-and-use-sick-time-under-certain-conditions/tdymGWZolLuhHsEmDRanVO/story.html).

According to WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, both gubernatorial candidates, Democratic candidate Martha Coakley and Republican candidate Charlie Baker, have also taken a stance on this issue. Coakley supports the earned sick time proposal while Baker opposes it. Coakley supports Question 4 because it will “specify the rules of engagement” in regards to how much sick time every employee is guaranteed, while Baker opposes Question 4 because the mandate is too “rigid” and instead proposes a different plan that would guarantee sick time only to employees that work for a business comprised of 50 or more people (http://www.wbur.org/2014/10/28/baker-coakley-five-issues).

For more information on each ballot question, visit http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele14/pip14idx.htm

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