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MADISON, Wisc.- Extremely mixed reviews, especially from some in Madison’s business community, met President Barack Obama’s idea to have congress pass a sick leave law.
The "Healthy Families Act", would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, or about seven days per year.
“One of the biggest problems that we have is that there are 43 million Americans who don't get paid sick leave,” Obama said.
However inside Dickinson Manufacturing Solutions on Madison's east side owner Keith Dickinson, who offers employees five sick leave days as part of his benefits package, finds the idea of adding two more days too costly.
“I just say to them, ‘hey look the pie is only so big’” Dickinson said. “So are you telling me you'd like me to take some money away from my employees so I can give them sick days. Because I can do that. I can make their bonus smaller at the end of the year. Maybe that's not what the employee wants.”
The law change would require business with at least 15 employees receive the benefit. With Dickinson’s business ever expanding, adding just five more employees would make the rule apply to his business.
“I believe what happens is other benefits are going to be reduced,” Dickinson said.
But state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, who co-sponsored a failed bill that would've added nine sick leave days to state law, says because the benefit would be earned like vacation time it would not cost companies any more money.
“When people are working hard, and they’re playing by the rules, they shouldn’t have to worry that their job is going to be there,” Sargent said. “I really think it is tragic that I’m hearing from folks that they are losing their jobs because they stayed home with a sick child. Or I’m hearing from people they sent their child to school sick because they couldn't afford to lose their job,”
President Obama also signed a memo Thursday directing federal agencies to allow workers to take six paid weeks of sick leave to care for a new child or ill family member. It also encourages agencies to help employees find, or even provide, emergency back-up care for child and adults with disabilities.
Because the country’s political climate is unlikely to support a law change, Obama is encouraging local communities to pass their own laws mirroring his executive action.
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