This group is late to the party; CYPers may not know this: the City of Milwaukee passed, at referendum, an ordinance that all employers must grant each employee a certain amount of sick leave. The ordinance has now been challenged in court on the grounds that a city, under Wisconsin law, does not have the power to create such an ordinance.
Why is this such a bad idea? CYPers know that regulation, even if it is meant well, is an afront to freedom–why not let employees and employers contract at will?
CYPers also realize that regulation hurts businesses and the area’s competitiveness for jobs. There are no free lunches in the free market; if employers have higher costs of hiring workers, they will hire fewer of these jobs. These are mainly entry-level jobs for people without much in the way of education or experience. Also, businesses that rely heavily on these workers (generally service businesses) can easily locate elsewhere.
This sort of micromanagement of the economy makes people feel good; unfortunately, it drives away economic growth and makes the area stagnant. Some businesses will stay and pay the benefits. Others, though, will move to the suburbs. Still others will perceive the entire region as having a high regulatory burden will locate their businesses elsewhere (which will hurt the entire region and everyone in it). Why is the City of Milwaukee creating more regulation and burdens on entrepreneurs–the lifeblood of a growing economy?
I personally think that it’s fine to think that the lowest-paid workers should have sick leave. But to mandate it in the face of the economic consequences is misguided and will only hurt many of the people that the ordinance is supposed to be protecting. It also flies in the reality that it makes the entire region far less competitive, and in doing so, decreases the ability of the region to provide for its disadvantaged. These sort of measures may have short-term benefits, but in the long-term, they create a cycle of high-taxes, high regulation, and wealth distribution that eventually drives the highest contributing citizens away from a city and elsewhere.
If you want employees to have higher salaries and more benefits, then the employees have to be worth it on their own (that employers will gladly pay the benefits because the workers are more productive). It is possible to make the workforce more productive–you can invest in education that produces results. You can make government more efficient (less taxes for the same or more services). These are far more difficult strategies to execute and cannot be put on a banner or a ballot.
And so, we’ve asked Tim Sheehy of the MMAC (Milwaukee’s chamber of commerce; Tim is the President) to come to our next happy hour and briefly explain the detrimental economic effect this ordinance, if allowed to stand, will have on our metropolitian area.