Illinois Workers Getting Paid Leave, Just Like People In Every Other* Country On Earth

Class War
Illinois Workers Getting Paid Leave, Just Like People In Every Other* Country On Earth
Pocket watch and beach chair with Vacation Time text on bl… | Flickr

Ah, American Exceptionalism! There are many things that separate the United States from the rest of the world. Things like our guns, our commitment to mass incarceration, our lack of universal health care, our lack of maternal/paternal leave, at-will employment and, of course, mandated paid leave (or, rather, a lack thereof).

In practically every other country in the world, employers are required to give employees a certain amount of paid days off a year. The only countries that do not have mandated paid days off are the United States, the Federated States of Micronesia (pop. 104,468), the island of Kiribati (pop. 121,388), the Marshall Islands (pop. 61,988) the microstate of Palau (pop. 18,233) and the island of Nauru (pop. 10,834).

This is slowly starting to change on a state-by-state basis. Fourteen states and Washington, DC require employers to offer paid sick leave, and Maine and Nevada passed laws mandating certain employers to offer paid vacation days in 2020, and now Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign into law an even more comprehensive mandate that will apply to nearly every employee in the state.

The new law will allow employees to earn one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours, or four and a half days. This would put the state just below Nigeria, which offers a minimum of six days of paid leave a year plus federal holidays, the lowest number of paid days mandated by any country that mandates them. However, because the law applies to businesses regardless of how many employees they have, it will be the most comprehensive bill in the United States.

Still Republicans and employers are concerned about the bill and how it will affect the job creators.

Via AP:

Newly-elected House Republican Leader Tony McCombie said the mandated benefits could have a “detrimental effect” on small businesses and nonprofits “in an already unfriendly business climate.”

“We all want a great working environment with an equitable work/life balance,” she said in an emailed statement. “However, Senate Bill 208 failed to address the concerns of those providing that work environment.”

For Leslie Allison-Seei, who runs a promotion and sweepstakes management company with her husband in DuPage county, taking care of their three full-time employees is a priority, but it is “difficult” to compete with corporate paid time off policies.

“We’re thrilled that this is getting passed and that it’s going to be signed. But it’s also a little bit frightening because, you know, a week’s worth of time — I don’t know what that would do to our business,” Allison-Seei said. “I think a lot of businesses are just doing the very best that they can to stay afloat.”

Small business advocacy organization National Federation of Independent Business opposes the bill, saying that it “imposes a one-size fits all mandate on all employers.”

Small business owners face steep inflation, increased fuel and energy costs and an absence of qualified workers, and the requirement will be an “additional burden,” NFIB state director Chris Davis said in a statement following the bill’s passage. “The message from Illinois lawmakers is loud and clear, ‘Your small business isn’t essential.’”

I would be more inclined to feel bad for these employers if, again, this was not the least amount of time off in the entire world, or if I thought small business owners who don't want to comply with it would actually allow their employees to take any days off, never mind pay them for it. I've worked for enough small businesses to know that much of the time, if they don't want to comply with labor laws, they often won't — especially in the retail and food service industry. The story will always be that they are too crunched to allow it and that the employees just need to be team players just for a little while longer.

Still, putting it into the law is important and necessary for those who will not be bullied by their Chanel-clad bosses into being team players for just a little while longer and will actually go and report them to the Department of Labor.

The idea that small business owners should get a break on complying with labor laws is ingrained into our national laws. Fun fact: It is legal, federally, for businesses with fewer than 15 employees to fire someone for discriminatory reasons — with many states having the same threshold or lower. Only Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Washington DC bar employers from discriminatory practices regardless of how many people they employ. This is why kooky socialists like myself (and the literal entire rest of the world) think it would be more conducive to protecting civil rights to put the onus on business owners instead of employees and only allow them to fire people for just cause.

This is something that needs to change. Small businesses deserve help, but not in the way that would affect their employees' health and well-being. It would probably be great for small businesses to not have to pay people at all, but that is illegal and for good reason.

We are so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to labor laws that steps like this do seem radical, but let us consider that people in most European countries have 35/36 paid days off a year including federal holidays and that people in Muslim countries frequently have more than 40. Cambodia has 45 paid days off total, which really puts a new spin on an old Dead Kennedys song.

Things happen, and people need the ability to take time off from work sometimes without worrying that they'll be unable to pay their rent or feed their kids. This is something we can do and should be doing across the country. Hopefully that happens someday.

Do your Amazon shopping through this link, because reasons.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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