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Keep politics out of sick leave policy

TwoViews • No one likes to get sick, but City Hall's plan stirs business ire


Let’s say, for example, that Portland is proposing an income tax for schools on any person traveling through Portland.

If you leave Gresham and shop in Beaverton, you pay Portland a tax on your income on a pro rata share based on how long it took you to get down the Banfield (Interstate 84) and through the Sunset tunnels (Highway 26).

It matters not that you never stopped in Portland. After all, their schools are more important than your take-home pay.

Sounds fair, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t the city of Portland have the power to tax people who don’t live in their city?

Although this proposal is fiction, if some in Portland’s City Hall have their way, it will be true in the form of a new sick-leave policy modeled after a similar policy in Seattle.

My apologies from invoking the “tax” word, but the complexities of creating a worker benefit measure outweigh the entitlement it intends to establish. We all agree that workers without a sick-leave policy face a tremendous challenge when they are hit with a cold or flu, but the policy being considered isn’t as simple as giving sick leave to people.

Instead, it is a complex regulation (more than 200 pages in Seattle) intended to disrupt and reopen existing union contracts, to override and double existing sick-leave policies, create a new government sick-leave police force and to include people who don’t work in Portland but may drive through in the course of their jobs.

This is a classic case of hunting a fly with a shotgun. The ultimate end to this method is the loss of other benefits to pay for a new heavy-handed government-ordained benefit.

The city of Portland has made a wise choice to postpone the discussion until next year when all parties affected can come to the table and seek a workable solution — one that doesn’t hurt the companies that have been providing sick leave voluntarily or through their negotiated union contracts, and certainly one that does not create 200 more pages of regulations and a new bureaucracy to enforce.

For anyone in the food industry, sick leave is important, but it should not be used as a political battering ram for special interests to improve their stake in labor negotiations at the expense of others.

Joe Gilliam is president of the Northwest Grocery Association.