Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tucson Might Look Into Mandatory Paid Sick Leave, But the Arizona Restaurant Association Isn't Happy About It

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 10:48 AM

It's a scenario most of us are familiar with: you're working at a restaurant or two or three, trying to make enough money to get through college or life in general, and flu season hits. One of your coworkers is out of town, the other is also sick and another just won't answer their phone. Even if they did answer, it's not like you can afford to lose out on tip money for the day. So, you go in, try your best not to cough on someone's quesadilla and hope the six or so hours of sleep you get after is enough for your body to repair itself. Not only is this a germ nightmare when food is involved, it's also unfortunately common when you work for an employer that doesn't offer paid sick leave.

Well, during today's study session for Tucson's City Council, which begins at 1 p.m., officials will be looking into a proposal to change it so all employers will be required to offer paid sick leave. According to supporting materials for the day's session, four states and 20 cities already have put measures into place to ensure earned sick and safe time is offered. 

"The purpose of these laws is to assist all workers in addressing their own health and safety needs and the health and safety needs of their families by requiring employers to provide a minimum amount of earned sick time, including time for the care of family members. Under Arizona Revised Statutes Section 23-364(I), the City of Tucson has authority to prescribe employee benefits related to earned sick time within the boundaries of Tucson." 

However, one group that represents a subset of employers that often do not offer these benefits is none too happy with the idea. The Arizona Restaurant Association issued a letter to Mayor Jonathan Rothschild on Dec. 7 to voice their concerns with the proposed measure, though it is still in its very early stages.

"This mandate is extremely harmful to restaurant owners, who have razor thin profit margins of only 2-4 percent...The restaurant and hospitality industry is inviting for many people who are looking for flexibility or an enjoyable work environment. We are the industry of opportunity...Mandating an employer's ability to offer benefits is not only cost ineffective, but also discouraging for new or expanding restaurateurs to locate to Tucson."
The letter goes on to state that, according to Arizona Revised Statutes 23-204, regulating employee benefits, like paid sick leave, is not in the hands of state municipalities. 

In last week's cover story, the city's food arch—including its restaurants—was looked at as a whole. In doing so, it was revealed that nearly 40,000 people in Tucson are employed in food and beverage service or retail jobs. With so many individuals in the city working in the field, it seems the question of mandated benefits would at least be one worth looking into. However, by sending a letter before the study session even commenced, it seems the Arizona Restaurant Association, which is based out of Scottsdale, wanted to send a clear message about the proposal.

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