Recently, the Oregonian editorial board rejected the idea of mandatory paid sick leave - saying that "socially conscious consumers" should simply voluntarily choose merchants that offer that "benefit".
First, let's just dispense right away with the notion that paid sick leave is a benefit. No, it's a public health issue. I shouldn't have to study the HR policies of a fast food place before I go there and buy a burrito or a burger. Sick people shouldn't be serving food. But that's exactly what's happening right now. (In 2008, over 500 people became violently ill with norovirus after eating at a Chipotle's in Kent, Ohio -- a restaurant that had no sick leave policy.)
Second, the notion that consumers ought to be responsible for tracking all this is just idiotic. (And frankly, I find it a little odd that the Oregonian seems to be supporting the idea of widespread consumer boycotts.)
City Commissioner Steve Novick - ain't it great to say that? - smacks down that idiotic idea in a letter to the editor:
Come to think of it, why not just repeal every law designed to protect workers and consumers, and let consumers do the work? It would be easy enough for every Portlander calling for a restaurant reservation to just go through a checklist: "Do you have a table for six Friday at 7? Great! I just have a few more questions. Do you use child labor? Do you pay the voluntary minimum wage? Do you buy food from farmers that choose to undergo safety inspections? Do you meet the voluntary fire safety standards? Do you pay overtime? Do you pay the voluntary Social Security tax? Do you discriminate against women and minorities in your hiring practices?"
Every argument The Oregonian makes against paid sick leave has been used against every worker protection since the dawn of time. Workers without paid sick leave are largely in service industries, like the restaurant industry, where it is dangerous to consumers to have people working while sick.
The vast majority of other countries, including capitalist havens like Singapore, require paid sick leave. Next month, Portland will join them.