By Madelyn Colon
CTLatinoNews.com Political Columnist
If the number of bills introduced by state Sen. Art Linares, the first-ever Latino Republican legislator from the 33rd district, is an indication of working hard in his new position, then Senator Linares is doing all the right things. So far in the new session, Linares has introduced 19 bills.
Some are even creative in their intent. SB 532 would expand the “Learn Here, Live Here” program that allows students to save a portion of their state income taxes for a future down payment to also be able to use the savings to start a new business. SB 674 would offer first time homeowners a tax credit, and another, SB 536 would award tax credits to CT manufacturers that support student scholarships to increase training in high-demand manufacturing jobs. Legislation like this demonstrates that Linares is trying to think outside the box to support new homeowners and businesses, and that he is serious about helping to prepare students to compete for jobs in the 21st century economy and remain in the state after they graduate.
But, then, he also introduced SB 179. It’s an Act Concerning Paid Sick Leave and its Effects on State Businesses. The bill would abolish paid sick leave and “improve the state business climate by eliminating the statutory requirement that employers compensate their employees for sick time.” The bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Labor and Public Employees but no public hearing has been scheduled and it’s doubtful the bill will gain any support.
Linares’ bill would seriously undermine Public Act 11-52, which mandates that employers provide paid sick leave to employees, signed into law by Governor Malloy in July 2011 and that became effective immediately. The law now requires non-manufacturing employers with 50 or more employees to provide paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every forty hours worked. The law applies to service workers who are covered under the federal Standard Occupational Classification System. Eligible employees who are victims of sexual assault and family violence are also covered under the law.
Latino families like so many others, where both parents are employed at one full-time and often even a part-time job, have had to juggle the demands of sick family members without the benefit of a paid sick day for far too long. They sleep better at night knowing they can now take care of themselves when they are ill, and care for a sick child or spouse without fear of retaliation by their employee or loss of income.
When the original legislation for PA 11-52 was first introduced in 2011, hundreds of individuals, business owners and representatives from public and private advocacy and research organizations attended the public hearing to express both their support and opposition. Many compelling arguments were presented. Employers argued their case and in their ranks were former corporate executives, who testified how paid sick leave actually strengthens businesses by encouraging employee retention and how businesses could absorb the costs of offering paid sick leave through minor savings in other areas.
The passage of CT’s paid sick leave law in 2011 now guarantees more than 600,000 Connecticut families with a basic workplace benefit. They work as food service managers, physician assistants, dental hygienists, crossing guards, cooks, cashiers and bus drivers and many are fellow Latinos.
Senator Linares, as a businessman yourself, some of the legislation you are proposing demonstrates vision and leadership. And leadership means caring and compassion and evening out the playing field for everyone. Your effort to abolish paid sick leave might have to do more with your party’s traditional political ideology than anything else, but keep in mind your party needs some new thinkers.
By Madelyn Colon