In light of the particularly nasty flu season in the U.S. this year, efforts to stop states from mandating employee sick leave seem especially cruel, but that is not stopping one Koch-funded organization from trying.
According to the Guardian, the National Federation of Independent Business - funded by brothers David and Charles Koch - is lobbying state governments to keep employees from winning paid sick time off. To some, arguing against such measures is tantamount to protecting profits at the expense of public health.
Paid sick leave advocates cite studies showing flu infection rates decrease in cities where workers earn sick days, and that parents who cannot take leave are two times more likely to send their sick children to school. They also point to a 2012 poll of restaurant servers and cooks that revealed two-thirds had served or cooked food while ill, threatening the health of their co-workers, customers and the companies that employ them.
First stop: Maryland.
When Maryland lawmakers moved last month to override the governor’s veto of a bill allowing 700,000 workers to earn sick leave, the state’s director of the National Federation of Independent Business – the Koch-backed group – complained it would create job-killing costs and mandate “devastating sanctions” for failure to comply.
On Thursday, the NFIB backed a failed attempt to delay the law, which went into effect on Sunday.
Next up: Texas.
Now it wants Austin city council members to vote no this Thursday on an ordinance that would make the Texas liberal enclave the first city in the south to require paid sick leave from private employers.
Under the Austin plan, employers would be able to ask for verification when sick leave extends beyond three days of work, are not required to pay out sick time when a worker quits, and can cap the number of sick days at eight per year.
What is the National Federation of Independent Business, and how does it operate?
- The Koch-connected NFIB receives most of its funding from Freedom Partners, whose board is composed of key Koch company figures.
- NFIB leans extremely conservative, with 95 percent of its support going to Republican candidates.
- Though the organization claims to be an advocate for small business, it lobbies for policies that benefit the interests of billionaires and corporations.
- NFIB is not opposed to using false information to sway public opinion; in Texas, NFIB claimed that the proposed ordinance “has no provision for reasonable notice to employers regarding the employee’s absence” and “does not set a limit on accrued time”, even though both statements are patently untrue.
Upping the stakes, NFIB’s Texas Executive Director, Will Newton, has promised to pursue state-level a “pre-emptive” law against paid sick leave next year. Seven states have already enacted similar measures drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which critics call a corporate bill mill.