Mastodon Ohio Employer Law Blog: Ohio Healthy Families Act : Ohio Employment and Labor Law, by Jon Hyman
Showing posts with label Ohio Healthy Families Act. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ohio Healthy Families Act. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A love letter to Connecticut (or, a modest proposal to bring jobs to Ohio)


Dear Connecticut,

I read on the Connecticut Employment Law Blog that your state legislature passed its controversial paid sick leave bill. Your Governor supports the measure and is expected to sign it. Beginning January 1, 2012, the law will mandate that many of your state’s employers with 50 or more employees provide 40 hours per year of paid sick leave to most full-time employees.

A few years ago, we Ohioans expected to vote on a similar measure via a statewide referendum. Our then-Governor (a Democrat) recognized the detriment such a measure would pose to our state’s ability to attract and retain the businesses we so sorely need. He struck a deal with the sponsoring labor unions pulling the Health Families Act from the ballot. Our state’s economy still isn’t great, but it’s better than it would have been if the Act had passed three years ago.

Connecticut Republican Representative John Rigby shares the same concerns about your state’s ability to attract and retain businesses (as quoted on NPR.org), “They’re going to have to shed jobs…. They’re going to have to let people go. They’re going to have to make a decision about whether to open the next brew pub in Connecticut or in Massachusetts or Rhode Island—states that are considered more business-friendly than our state.” Adds Kia Murrell, assistant counsel for the Connecticut Business & Industry Assoc. (as quoted on MSNBC.com), “Today is the worst possible time to add one more thing…. It’s one more nail in the proverbial coffin.”

Connecticut, when your businesses are ready to flee to avoid this stifling mandate, we are happy to take them and the jobs they bring along.

Love,

ohio_map 

Ohio, your (not quite) neighbor to the West

P.S.: Please help support a fellow labor & employment blogger, Daniel Schwartz, and click over to his Connecticut Employment Law Blog, which he re-launched yesterday with a brand new look and some cool new features.


Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A call for the reform of ballot measures


It's so nice when labor and business gets together to make a common sense decision for the betterment of all. Last month, Ohio's labor unions and business organizations compromised on the removal of the Healthy Families Act from November's ballot. Now, Colorado's unions and employers have done the same on its four controversial ballot measures.
The Denver Post reports that labor and management have reached an accord that will remove the following four issues from its ballot:
  1. Eliminating "at will" employment and requiring private employers to have a "just cause" with supporting documentation before terminating employees.
  2. Mandating that all companies with 20 or more employees provide health insurance for workers and dependents.
  3. Removing workers compensation's "exclusive remedy" provision, and permitting injured workers to collect workers comp benefits and sue their employer.
  4. Holding corporate officials criminally liable for illegal company activities.
Look, these ballot initiatives are scary. In Ohio, one labor organization only needed 250,000 signatures to place the populist, yet very dangerous, Healthy Families Act on the ballot. A system that can be so easily hijacked by special interests looking to push an agenda needs to be fixed. Supposedly, we elect legislators to enact, and a governor to sign or veto, legislation. They are supposed to speak as the collective majority will of the electorate. Yet, the legislature and the governor would have had no say-so if 50% plus 1 voted in favor of the Healthy Families Act.
One possible fix is a super-majority (60%?) to pass a ballot initiative. Another is to require many more signatures than the relatively small number that currently suffices. A third option is to eliminate ballot initiatives altogether. On balance, the super-majority option seems to makes the most sense - it preserves the sanctity of our separation of powers, allows the populace to still have a direct say on issues they it deems to be of great importance, and limits the ability of dangerous laws to play to populist sentiments.
This change is necessary to protect our state's economy from what is coming down the pike in two years when labor unions begin gathering signatures for the next anti-business ballot measures, such as those that were recently removed in Colorado.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Ohio Healthy Families Act is dead, but what's next?


Aside from being key battleground states in the 2008 election, Ohio and Colorado have another similarity, one to which employers in our state should pay attention.

In 2006, both states' voters passed ballot initiatives that amended their respective state constitutions to provide for a higher minimum wage. Why, you might be asking, should Ohio businesses care about what Colorado voters did two year ago? Because both minimum wage ballot initiatives were union-backed, as was the Healthy Families Act, and as are four different measures on Colorado's ballot this fall that should have businesses scared for their lives. According to Business Insurance, Colorado employers are fighting four proposed constitutional amendments on November's ballot that would devastate businesses in that state, by:

  • Eliminating "at will" employment and requiring private employers to have a "just cause" with supporting documentation before terminating employees.
  • Mandating that all companies with 20 or more employees provide health insurance for workers and dependents.
  • Removing workers compensation's "exclusive remedy" provision, and permitting injured workers to collect workers comp benefits and sue their employer.
  • Holding corporate officials criminally liable for illegal company activities.

Ohio businesses quickly mobilized against the Healthy Families Act, and should be commended for their efforts to defeat it. Imagine, however, the devastating cumulative effect of no more at-will employment, mandatory health insurance, and private lawsuits for workplace injuries. Companies need to stay vigilant in their efforts to keep Ohio business-friendly, and combat the type of job-killing ballot initiatives that labor organizations are testing in Colorado. Do not think for a second that if one or more of these Colorado initiatives are successful that we won't see some combination of them in 2010.

As long as labor organization can place transparently populist anti-business measures on the ballot via petition drives, we need to be mindful of what is happening in Colorado and fearful that it will come our way in the next election cycle.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ohio Chamber of Commerce announces victory on paid sick leave


The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has weighed in on the timely demise of the Healthy Families Act:

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce is pleased the mandated sick leave proposal will be pulled from the November ballot.  We appreciate the courage Governor Ted Strickland exhibited as he worked diligently to protect Ohio’s economy from this extremely costly proposal.  We applaud his leadership and the leadership of Senate President Bill Harris and House Speaker Jon Husted on this issue.  They truly understood how detrimental this mandate would be to our state’s economy and the ability to attract and retain the jobs Ohioans so desperately need.  Ohio employers have always provided good-paying jobs with excellent benefits.  With this issue behind them, they can now get back to the work of growing their businesses and creating jobs.

Meanwhile, SEIU District 1199, the measure's sponsor, has indicated that it pulled the issue from the ballot after Gov. Strickland and Sen. Sherrod Brown pledged their help in enacting the law on a federal scale. In other words, stay tuned in 2009 for the resumption of this battle on Capitol Hill.

Victory (for now): Healthy Families Act to be pulled from ballot


Rumors started circulating early this morning that the Governor finally succeeded in getting the Healthy Families Act pulled from the ballot. Now, we have formal confirmation, courtesy of the Columbus Dispatch:

Ohioans for Healthy Families, the group that backed the paid sick-day amendment, said today that it has asked that the proposal be pulled off the Nov. 4 ballot.

Officials with the Service Employees International Union were holding a press conference this morning with Gov. Ted Strickland and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to announce the decision.

Strickland and Brown said they would push for a separate law requiring paid sick days.

The compromise almost certainly will be Sen. Brown pushing for similar legislation in the Senate. If Obama wins the election, it is guaranteed that we will see the Healthy Families Act, in some form, on a national level. More on this to come.

On a personal note, thank you Governor Strickland for standing up for Ohio's businesses and taking a position that might not be popular with your base, but is clearly in the best interest of Ohio.

Now, I have to go find something to do to fill all my time that's been taken up by this issue.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Should businesses be reviewing paid leave policies in advance of the Healthy Families Act?


The above-the-fold headline on the front page of Sunday's Plain Dealer business section reads, "Employers consider altering benefits before voters decide sick days issue." A whole lot of ink has been spilled in law firm newsletters all over Ohio discussing this very issue. As the article notes, some lawyers are recommending and business are considering making revisions to benefit plans and leave policies now, to potentially lessen the blow if the Healthy Families Act passes on Nov. 4.

This debate centers around two sentences in the proposed law, section 4114.07:

(B) An employer with a leave policy providing paid leave options shall not be required to modify such policy, if such policy offers an employee the option at the employee’s discretion to take paid leave that is at least equivalent to the sick leave described in this section.

(C) An employer may not eliminate or reduce leave in existence on the date of enactment of this Act, regardless of the type of such leave, in order to comply with the provisions of this Act.

Some are considering changes now because of 4114.07(C). Before the law passes, a company will be able to reduce employees' vacation days to insert paid sick leave, or amend its current leave program to switch to a paid time off system. After the law goes into effect, however, current leave programs cannot be subtracted from to add the 7 paid sick days.

The question in my mind is what does "leave that is at least equivalent to the sick leave described in this section" mean? Is is leave that an employee can for his or her own physical or mental illness, injury, medical condition, or professional medical diagnosis, or that of a child parent or spouse? Or, does the leave have to comply with the subtle nuances of the statute, such as lack of notice, incremental leave as small as 1 hour, and no medical certification for leaves of less than 3 days?

If a business has policies that, alone or take together, enable employees to take 7 paid sick days, that business should, in theory, be okay under 4114.07(B).

If companies try to get out in front of the OHFA and change their personnel policies now by converting vacations in paid time off, which can be used for any reason including sick leave, will business still have to grant an additional 7 days of sick leave if the PTO they do grant does not meet the OHFA's minimum requirements for the use of paid sick days?

Common sense would dictate that a day that can be used as a paid sick day should suffice, and the other nuances are merely administrative and can be added in after the fact by businesses if the OHFA passes. However, there is nothing common sense about this law. Businesses run a real risk by making any changes in advance of the election. They very well might end up paying double benefits.

In other words, their are serious pros and cons to making any changes now.

 

Pros Cons
7 days that an employee can use for sick days is equivalent to the overall leave provided for in the HFA, and therefore should suffice under 4114.07(B). Ambiguities in the proposed law mean that any changes made now might not suffice unless the paid sick leave is tracked feature-by-feature, such as no notice and leave in 1 hour increments.
Waiting to make changes risks not be able to subtract from current benefits, thereby adding the cost of 7 paid sick days. Making changes now risks that they will not suffice under the statute, thereby adding the cost of 7 paid sick days.
Employees may prefer a more flexible leave program. Negative employee morale by changing leave plans, such as eliminating vacation days.
PTO policies offer employees greater flexibility in how they use their time off. PTO policies provide employers less control over how employees use their time off.

 

Any decision about amending leave and benefit policies in advance of the election is not a easy as it might sound. These decisions must be carefully thought out after weighing these pros and cons.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Governor Strickland's press release against the Healthy Families Act


For those who are interested, the following is the Governor's press release condemning the Healthy Families Act.

The fight between both sides of this issue between now and November 4 is going to be very contentious. It is very significant that our Democratic Governor has taken a public stand against this measure. The key for businesses is to figure out a game plan to capitalize on this publicity and get the message out to employees that there is a significant price to be paid in exchange for 7 paid sick days.

There are a wealth of resources available on the internet about the Healthy Families Act.

  • Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits is the official campaign against this ballot measure. Its website not only has information for those who oppose this initiative, but details on how to get involved in the campaign.
  • COSE (the Council of Smaller Enterprises) also has a great informational website about the Healthy Families Act, and information on how to get involved in the campaign.
  • Play Sick Ohio has been created by the Ohio Roundtable, a non-profit public policy think tank.

And, I will continue to keep everyone updated as this campaign against mandated paid sick leave continues.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Governor Strickland formally speaks out against Healthy Families Act


Governor Strickland's efforts to broker a compromise on the Healthy Families Act have officially failed. He has been tirelessly working behind the scenes to come to some workable solution that would keep the initiative off November's ballot. With that effort having gone for naught, the Governor has now officially weighed in with their opinion on this proposal:

We also recognize it is important to make clear our thoughts on important public policy issues and today are announcing that we cannot support the paid sick-day ballot initiative.  While we would hope that all Ohio businesses would make paid sick days available to their employees whenever possible, we believe that this initiative is unworkable, unwieldy and would be detrimental to Ohio's economy, and we will be opposing it and asking Ohioans to oppose it as a result.

Folks, if the Democratic Governor of our state is against this pro-employee measure, is there any doubt that its passage is bad for Ohio?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The real cost of paid sick leave is staggering


The National Federation of Independent Businesses has commissioned a study to calculate the real cost of paid sick leave to Ohio. The results:

  • 75,000 lost jobs.

  • 20% of the job losses to hit businesses with 20 or fewer employees.

  • $1.17 billion in costs to Ohio employers each year.

  • $9.4 billion in lost sales to Ohio businesses over the next 4 years.

Source: Cleveland.com.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Five reasons why I'm against the Healthy Families Act


As most know, the Healthy Families Act paid sick leave mandate guarantees seven days of paid sick leave each year to employees who work at least 30 hours a week and a pro-rated number of days to employees working less than 30 hours in any workplace with at least 25 employees. Who can argue against paid time off from work? It's a benefit that most employees would love to have.

If employees dig deeper, however, they will realize that the Healthy Families Act, while attractive on its face, is not the cure-all they need for their families. In fact, it will cause more short and long term damage to Ohioans' jobs than lacking a few paid days off per year.

  1. Requiring employers to add paid sick leave is a threat to pay, benefits and jobs. The proposed mandate imposes significant added costs on employers, who in turn will be forced to look elsewhere to make up the difference. Other benefits, pay, and even jobs will be on the chopping block as businesses try to find the money to pay for sick leave. What good is paid sick leave if employees can no longer afford the health insurance that covers their sick family members because employers increase employees' contributions to counterbalance the cost of mandated sick leave?

  2. Even employers who already offer paid sick leave will be seriously penalized by this proposal. This proposal allows employees to take sick leave with little or no advance notice in increments as small as an hour or less. How will you feel if you have to cover for an employee who goes home, with pay and without notice, because he or she has an upset stomach? Moreover, this unannounced leave poses a serious threat to safety-sensitive operations like hospitals, nursing homes and day-care facilities.

  3. This mandate will brand Ohio as a job-killer. Ohio is suffering through its worst economic period in decades. This mandate will make Ohio the only state in the union with a mandated paid sick leave law, significantly driving up the cost of doing business when we can least afford it. Some Ohio companies will leave for less expensive states while companies in other states will dismiss Ohio as a potential location for expansion. In short, this mandate will kill economic development at a time when we need more jobs, not fewer jobs. What good is paid leave is there are no jobs left in which to use it?

  4. The increased cost of paying for sick leave will result in more expensive goods and services. High oil prices has already increased the costs of many goods and services. While employers in the short term will need to cut benefit packages to pay for this mandate, the long-term result will be increased costs of goods and services, as businesses need new ways try to cover the cost of paid sick leave.

  5. This proposal interferes with the established relationship between employers and employees at some of the nation’s most successful businesses. Many companies now operate under long-standing policies that provide employees with good pay and benefits in exchange for work arrangements that ensure a continued high level of production. This proposal guts the employer-employee relationship and threatens the production stability achieved during years of mutual cooperation.

Governor Strickland's efforts to broker a deal between business and union leaders appears to have failed. Unless the unexpected happens, the Healthy Families Act will be on November's ballot. It is important to keep these ideas in mind when considering this mandate, and not simply get caught up in the sex appeal of a few paid days off per year.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Even California thinks paid sick leave is a bad idea


California is uniformly thought of as the most liberal employment law state. It is often the test ground for new employment laws and theories. Yet, paid sick leave could not even make the grade in the Sunshine Golden State. According to the Angeles Times, California's paid sick leave measure died in its legislature:

A state bill to guarantee paid days off for sick workers died Thursday amid opposition from business lobbyists and lawmaker concern that the benefit was too costly.

The bill would have granted employees of small companies in California up to five days of paid sick leave each year. Workers at larger firms could take up to nine days a year. ...

Small businesses and their lobbyists who fought the sick-leave measure said they were relieved that it failed. They estimated that the bill would cost 370,000 jobs in California and would burden employers with $4.6 billion in new costs over a five-year period.

The bill "unfairly presumed that small-business owners are able to provide paid sick leave and don't want to," said John Kabeteck, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. "That couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is that many want to but simply can't afford it." ...

If the proposal had become law, California would have been the first state in the nation to provide universal paid sick leave. But it would have eroded the state's ability to attract new employers, said state Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg. Ma's proposal was high on the influential business lobby's annual list of "job killer" bills.

Do these themes sound familiar? Ohio's legislature has already rejected the Healthy Families Act. California has now done the same. If California, whose economy is much more robust than Ohio's, is concerned that a paid sick leave mandate will erode that state's ability to attract businesses, what will the same measure mean for Ohio?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Will the Healthy Families Act prohibit fraud?


A commenter took me to task for yesterday's post, in which I argued that under the proposed Healthy Families Act employees committing fraud by taking illegitimate time off work could hide behind the law to protect their jobs. To support his/her point, the commenter relied upon Vail v. Raybestos Products Co., an FMLA decision out of the 7th Circuit.

In that case, Diana Vail was terminated while out on FMLA leave. Vail claimed to suffer from migraine headaches, that would come upon her shortly before her scheduled shift at Raybestos. Between May and September 2005, she took more than 33 days of approved leave. Her supervisor became suspicious, hired an off-duty cop to tail her, discovered that she was helping her husband's lawn mowing business while on FMLA leave, and terminated her. The Court correctly rejected her FMLA interference claim:

An employer can defeat an interference claim by showing, among other things, that the employee did not take leave "for the intended purpose." ... We have interpreted this to mean that an employer has not violated the FMLA if it refused to reinstate the employee based on an "honest suspicion" that the she was abusing her leave. ...

Though the use of an off-duty police officer to follow an employee on leave may not be preferred employer behavior, employers have certainly gone further than Raybestos. ... In any event, the information gleaned from Sergeant Largent's reconnaissance was sufficient to give Raybestos an "honest suspicion" that Vail was not using her leave "for the intended purpose." Vail had taken medical leave for her October 6, 2005 evening shift. The next morning, the off-duty police officer saw Vail working for her husband's lawn-mowing business. Raybestos received this information after it already suspected that Vail was gaming her leave in order to work for her husband's business. So when it heard information consistent with what they suspected she was doing while on leave, Raybestos decided to terminate her. ... Raybestos did not violate Vail’s rights under the FMLA.

The Vail case, however, is vastly different than the example I discussed yesterday, which focused on systematic audits by employers of employees' use of sick time. No one would reasonably argue that an employer cannot legitimately investigate a specific employee that in good faith it suspects of committing fraud. However, the Healthy Families Act very well might prohibit more general investigations that may catch crooked employees in its dragnet.

Section 4114.10(B) of the proposed Health Families Act states: "No employer shall interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempted exercise of any right provided in this Act." It will be up to the courts to interpret what this section means, but employee advocates will certainly argue that blanket investigations of employees' use of sick time could interfere with or restrain employees' use of sick time. If an employee thinks that he or she could be terminated if an employer investigation determines that a sick day was improvidently taken, that employee might be less likely to use sick days at all. Thus, one could conclude that generalized investigations violate section 4114.10(B).

Any statute that could be construed to inhibit an employer's ability to investigate and catch employee fraud is a poorly conceived and drafted statute. This is yet another reason why the Healthy Families Act is bad for Ohio businesses.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Healthy Families Act appears headed to November ballot


The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Ohioans for Healthy Families has submitted to the Secretary of State double the number of signatures needs to place the Healthy Families Act on the November ballot. The battle lines are being drawn between supporters of the ballot initiative and Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits, a coalition of businesses that opposes the initiative as bad for Ohio businesses. Governor Strickland continues to seek a compromise to keep this job-killing measure off the ballot. Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits, however, rightly believes that a compromise is impossible: "The premise of this proposal - to require a costly state-imposed employee benefit that no other state now requires - is unacceptable on its face."

Meanwhile, another story in this morning's Plain Dealer illustrates one of the key problems with the Healthy Families Act. It seems that Cleveland has been spot-checking its safety employees' use of sick time:

For the past 18 months, EMS and firefighter supervisors haven't just been rushing to fires or medical emergencies, they've also been checking up on employees who called in sick.

The checks are done when more than five call off on any day or when people use sick days around holidays and vacations. Employees who don't answer the door when supervisors knock must produce a note or other proof that they visited the doctor or pharmacy or face discipline.

Last week, EMS began pre-discipline hearings for 36 paramedics over sick-time use. Firefighters have already been disciplined.

Employees who call off sick force the city to pay overtime to maintain minimum staffing levels, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. If the city didn't pay the overtime, fire trucks and ambulances would sit idle, said Safety Director Martin Flask.

"Sick time has a detrimental impact on safety services," he said. "Rules have to be followed."

If the Healthy Families Act becomes law, this practice might become illegal. Section 4114.10(C)(2) of the proposed law states: "No employer shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee for opposing any practice made unlawful by this Act, including ... Using paid sick leave taken pursuant to this Act as a negative factor in an employment action, such as hiring, promotion, or a disciplinary action." Checking whether an employee's use of sick leave is legitimate could be construed as violating this provision. In other words, as the law is written, employees committing fraud by taking illegitimate time off work could hide behind the law to protect their jobs.

For more information on how you can help defeat the Healthy Families Act, visit www.saveourjobsandbenefits.com.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Indiana pushing for passage of Healthy Families Act to help its own economy


If need any more reasons to work as hard as possible to help defeat the Ohio Healthy Families Act, check out the following editorial from the Seymour, Indiana Tribune:

OUR VIEW: Ohio could boost Hoosier economy

We think Hoosiers should encourage Ohio residents to support an effort that would require Ohio companies with at least 25 employees to offer at least seven sick days a year. Such a program — in Ohio — would be great news for Indiana’s economy.

Service Employees International Union District 1199 is pushing an effort to get that plan on the ballot in November 2008 to help drive Democratic voter turnout, The Associated Press reports.

It would be yet another reason for businesses not to choose Ohio, but that isn’t deterring the union. We say go, brothers, get it on the ballot and get it enacted into law.

Ohio already has high taxes, a higher minimum wage and a smoking ban. Why wouldn’t the union look for one more way to keep jobs from being created there? ...

“Workers should not have to choose between a paycheck and recovery time when they get sick,” the union said in a statement.

Measures like this one will ensure the paycheck won’t even be an option for even more Ohioans and perhaps ensure that more companies like Honda and Nestle choose Indiana over Ohio as homes for their plants, much as they did with announcements last year. Again, that’d be good news for the Hoosier economy.

Let’s hope the idea doesn’t cross the state line.

I've also heard that Indiana has billboards just across the state line from Ohio that read: "Come on IN for lower taxes, business and housing costs".

Our Midwestern neighbors are salivating at the opportunity to steal our businesses and jobs if the Healthy Families Act passes in November. Do not give them the opportunity.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Governor seeks compromise to keep Healthy Families Act off the November ballot


Governor Strickland has spoken out against the Ohio Healthy Families Act as bad for Ohio businesses, but he is not necessarily opposed to to idea of paid sick days as a concept. Thus, he has been working with both Sick Days Ohio, the group sponsoring the OHFA, and business groups such as Northeast Ohio's Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) to forge a compromised bill and keep the OHFA off the November ballot. Governor Strickland is pushing what he calls "principles of sick leave," which are less specific than the current proposal. Regardless of any changes, however, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that COSE and other business interests may nevertheless oppose any sort of paid sick leave:

COSE, which represents nearly 17,000 small businesses in Greater Cleveland, is particularly opposed to the coalition's provision that would allow workers to take sick time in small increments. It says such time-keeping would be an administrative nightmare and would potentially disrupt time-sensitive manufacturing.

But eliminating that provision would not lessen COSE's overall opposition to the proposal. ...

COSE is working with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to oppose the ballot issue. They have formed the Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits coalition.

Millard said the coalition wants to raise $10 million for its campaign. He said he would rather see the money invested in job expansion and to help attract businesses but said the coalition has little choice.

Any compromise would have to be reached in the next two weeks. The coalition behind the OHFA has until August 6 to submit 120,000 valid voter signatures to qualify the proposal for the November 4 ballot, and is expected to hit that mark.

Given the philosophical differences between business and labor on this issue, I would be very surprised if the Governor is able to forge a compromise.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Illustrating the dangers of the Healthy Families Act to Ohio


Yesterday, a commenter left the following on my earlier post, Deconstructing the Ohio Healthy Families Act:

What effect will this have on attracting new business to Ohio? Just the administrative burden alone is formidable, let alone the potential costs. If I have the responsibility of choosing between building a new plant in Ohio, which has the mandated 7 paid sick days, or another state which doesn't have such a provision, I would have to have a lot of other positives to the Ohio location.

This comment underscores just how critical it is to defeat this measure in  November. Ohio is at an economic crossroads, and yet we have the opportunity to bring our state forward into the 21st century. That opportunity includes a burgeoning bio-medical industry to work in tandem with our outstanding hospital systems, and Governor Strickland's efforts to lure so-called "green" companies to Ohio to help develop alternate fuel 6a00d83421dda453ef00e54f2e25558833-640wisources. Enacting legislation that will create labor costs to do business in Ohio that do not exist in any other state is not the way to go about curing our state's ills. We need incentives for companies to settle in Ohio, not incentives for them to look elsewhere and leave.

The OHFA is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Ohioans going to the polls in November will be drawn to vote in its favor because people think that they want paid time off. If there are no jobs left in Ohio because this measure passes, what good will it do?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits vows to fight against Healthy Families Act


Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits, a coalition of businesses, organizations, and others  that oppose the Healthy Families Act, has formally launched its campaign to defeat the November ballot initiative. It calls the sick leave mandate a "job killer" for Ohio, and has just issued the following news release:

Opponents of the union-backed mandated sick leave proposal today announced formation of a campaign committee to defeat the proposal, labeling it “a job-killer” that threatens Ohio’s economy at a time when it is already reeling.

The committee, representing a broad coalition of individual employers, trade associations and businesses organizations, said it intends to educate voters about the devastating effects the proposed state mandate will have on individual employers, their workers and the Ohio economy.

“Few people in Ohio are against sick leave,” said John C. Mahaney, Jr., treasurer of Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits. “But Ohio’s struggling businesses – particularly our small businesses – can’t withstand provisions in this proposal that threaten pay, benefits and jobs.”

“To make things worse, the proposal also severely penalizes employers who already provide sick leave by imposing rules that will make it much more expensive to operate assembly lines and facilities like hospitals and nursing homes,“ Mahaney added.

Mahaney said the mandate will brand Ohio as a “job-killer” in the eyes of businesses nationwide at a time when the state is in desperate need of new jobs.

“This proposal will make Ohio the only state in the union with a mandated paid sick leave law,” he said. “It will significantly drive up the cost of doing business when we can least afford it, and it will kill our job-development efforts.”

The provision that worries employers who currently grant sick leave is one that allows employees to take sick leave without warning in one-hour increments or less. Mahaney said such a provision poses a serious threat to production stability at process-dependent employers like assembly line manufacturers and staffing-critical operations like hospitals, nursing homes and day-care facilities.

“Companies like Honda, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Whirlpool and others have long-standing agreements that provide employees with good pay and benefits in exchange for work arrangements that ensure a continued high level of production,” he said. “This proposal directly interferes with long-established employer-employee relationships and the production stability achieved over many years of working together.”

Employers of every size worry that the cost to implement the mandate would require them to make up the difference by taking money from other benefits such as health care, curtailing raises or even cutting jobs, Mahaney said.

Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits promised a vigorous grassroots campaign in all 88 Ohio counties to defeat the proposal in November.

Ohio is suffering through its worst economic period in 20 years. This issue will make us one of the most business-unfriendly states in the country. With our nation's economy at a crossroads, Ohio's working people simply cannot afford our state to be branded a "job-killer."

If you want to get involved in this grassroots campaign, if you want to know how your business or organization can sign up as a supporter of Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits, or if you simply want more information on the dangers that the Healthy Families Act presents to Ohio, please contact me:

Jon Hyman - jth@kjk.com - 216-736-7226

Monday, June 16, 2008

Is this the beginning of the end for the Ohio Healthy Families Act?


The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Governor Strickland has publicly come out against the Healthy Families Act:

Strickland, a Democrat, began speaking out publicly against the so-called Healthy Families Act last week, urging business and labor to get together and work out a compromise that would keep it off the ballot.

His motivations are both practical and political.... From a practical standpoint, Strickland clearly is concerned about the measure's economic costs. Like the coalition of business interests that is opposing the issue, he has noted how expensive it would be for companies to provide such a benefit.... Despite the concerns of employers, voters love the idea. Therein lies Strickland's political headache.

Voters of both parties support the proposal, but it is especially popular among Strickland's fellow Democrats. It has been predicted to drive Democratic turnout in this fall's presidential race in much the same way a proposed gay marriage ban did with Republican turnout in 2004. As with that issue, the sick-day proposal has national scope: it has been proposed in a dozen states and two cities, and is supported by presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

Because 70% of Ohioans support this measure, it will be very difficult to keep if off November's ballot, despite Governor Strickland's efforts. In the meantime, if you want more information on the likely harm the Health Families Act will cause to Ohio's already fragile business climate, visit the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's website about the OHFA, Ohio Business Votes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Just because paid family leave is a popular issue does not mean it is good for Ohio


Ohioans for Healthy Families, the union-backed group behind the Ohio Health Families Act, continues to try to gather enough signatures to have the OHFA placed on the November ballot. According to a May 28, 2008, press release by Ohioans for Healthy Families, the organization has:
already gathered over 50,000 new petition signatures and, with over 70% of Ohioans supporting paid sick day legislation, have no doubt whatsoever that we will be able to gather the number needed to put it on the November ballot. Personally, I think anyone running for legislative office this year while opposing paid sick days is playing political Russian roulette.
By law, if the Coalition gathers an additional 120,683 signatures by August 6, the Ohio Healthy Families Act will appear on the November ballot.
A poll on MSNBC.com of over 10,000 people reveals that only 28% oppose government mandated paid family leave. Further, as the MSNBC article points out, the United States severely lags behind most of the civilized world (and even some of the third world) on paid family leave benefits. The issue isn't whether paid family leave is a good idea or a bad idea. The issue is whether the Ohio Health Families Act, as written, is good for Ohio businesses, which it is not.
Separate and apart from the myriad ambiguities and other drafting problems in the legislation, which I've discussed before (see Deconstructing the Ohio Healthy Families Act), Ohio simply does not need to be on the forefront of this issue. Only three states (California, Washington, and New Jersey) currently require paid family leave. Nothing about becoming the 4h state to join this movement will make Ohio a more attractive business climate. We should be passing legislation to draw companies to Ohio, not drive them away.
There will come a time when paid leave will be a reality for all but the smallest of businesses in this country. If Obama wins in November, I expect that time to come in the next 4 years. Assuming that the OHFA makes the November ballot, Ohio voters will have to look past their own self interests and consider the greater good of the state. Is it more important to have a few days of paid medical leave per employee, or have more businesses choose to call Ohio home, which creates more jobs and less of a tax strain for everyone?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Update on Ohio Health Families Act


The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Ohio legislature is balking at the Ohio Health Families Act in its current form. The legislature has until May 8 to pass the OHFA. If it does not, Sick Days Ohio, the Union-led coalition of 180 different groups that sponsored the measure, would be entitled to circulate a petition to gather 120,683 signatures to qualify the law for placement on the fall ballot. A recent Columbus Dispatch poll shows that Sick Days Ohio likely would not have much problem obtaining those signatures. According to the poll, 76% of registered Democrats and 45% of registered Republicans favor the OHFA, while only 15% of Democrats and 44% of Republicans oppose it.

This wide bipartisan public support likely means that the OHFA will appear on November's ballot and will probably pass by a comfortable margin. In other words, Ohio's businesses better prepare themselves for the likely prospect of mandatory paid sick leave beginning in 2009.