The Airport Gateway Business Association (AGBA) is focused on economic development around our airport, with most of our members being businesses. AGBA has these comments about the Nov. 4 mandated sick days referendum facing Milwaukee voters:
1) We strongly support the concept of wellness for employees and their families as a good and efficient business practice. We hope and encourage employers to operate their businesses with that premise. We all know that wellness situations arise in everyone’s life, that good employees will respond well to employers when cared for,
2) The imposition of this mandated employee benefit only in the City of Milwaukee would impact the human beings who own businesses in the city. It would also impact owners of other businesses outside the city if they currently provide workers to a business location in the city.
3) In addition to cash compensation to employees that comes out of the pockets of owners, it would create additional administrative costs for all of these businesses, including retention of records for five years after an employee departs.
4) Many employers may change their overall employee compensation program so that this benefit is provided while other benefits or compensation are reduced. Or, as was done by law in the City of San Francisco, a paid-time-off policy will be implemented to be used for sick time, vacation time or personal days.
5) Mayor Tom Barrett does not support this mandate for a number of reasons and AGBA highly commends him for his leadership on this matter. He realizes that this will decrease Milwaukee’s level of attractiveness as a place to have a business location.
6) Another reason Mayor Barrett does not support it is that Congress is currently considering a paid sick leave policy on a national basis. We believe this arena is where such a policy should be made, if one should be made by government at all.
7) AGBA’s prime objective is vitality of the economy around our airport, which is in the City of Milwaukee. Imposition of this mandate would be one damaging factor in the effort to retain and attract businesses to our area. Simply, if a human being located outside Milwaukee could expand his or her business in Milwaukee or elsewhere, this mandated benefit certainly would be a negative factor in their consideration, especially when no other city in Wisconsin has it. The business can locate instead just across the street. Isn’t this ridiculous?
8) AGBA believes that human beings who own businesses should be able to compete by offering competitive compensation packages that meet the combined goals and needs of them and their employees. One-sized benefits on all businesses does not make sense and will reduce competition.
9) As a matter of principle, AGBA thinks that it is not the role of government to impose employee benefits requirements on businesses. Interestingly, the proposed ordinance excludes non-business entities, such as government-related ones.
10) AGBA further thinks that this proposed City ordinance is an extremely poor example of establishing legislation. In effect, the potential beneficiaries are being asked to vote on a benefit for them that will have no cost to them and a tiny relative cost to taxpayers in the form of more staffing for the Equal Rights Commission in the city. There are fewer business owners than there are employees and there was little time for businesses to participate in the legislation process prior to the referendum being established. This was a very unfair manner to allow a mandating ordinance to be put on a ballot.
11) The cost of providing this benefit will come out of the pockets of human beings who own businesses, the very ones that are currently risking their own capital in the business and are providing the jobs for these employees in the first place. Their choices will be to change compensation plans, raise prices or move.
12) Property values in other cities may already be relatively higher because of lower taxes than those of the City of Milwaukee. If a lot of businesses decide to move, property values in the city will go down further because of increasing supply and they will go up right across the street because of increasing demand.
13) While this ordinance would initially be good for some employees, for others it will not be good because they will ot have improved benefits in total but they will have less flexibility is their benefit package. Some may lose jobs when companies decide to move and ultimately, the taxpayers may have to pay more. Ultimately, this ordinance will be risky for the city.
14) Our fear is that the voters will think just of themselves and not of the city or the long-term bigger picture. If Milwaukee is the only city to implement this requirement, in the long run the voters will ultimately be hurting themselves as well as the city.
15) Passing this referendum is not a good idea. It is not the right thing to do. There are better alternatives to meet employees’ desires.
16) We encourage employers to use the MMAC’s Tool Box on this issue to communicate with their employees.
Tom Rave is the executive director of The Gateway To Milwaukee.