By Brian Gillespie
Author’s Note: This is a slightly edited essay I submitted to the Albuquerque Journal in June of 2020 when city Councilors Sena and Benton were proposing a Paid Leave ordinance. Since June of 2020 the statistics related to Covid deaths have only become more grotesque further illustrating our nations’ criminally inept response to the disease.
Paid Sick Leave Opponents are Racist Capitalist Overlords. And they smell bad too. Name calling and click-bait titles aside, I’m dead serious. The connection between systemic racism, exploitation capitalism, and the fight for paid leave has never been more transparent. Opponents in the business community are raising the same stall tactics and alarms we’ve seen before on this issue. Business interests are still saying the paid leave sky is falling. Nothing new. But we’re in an unprecedented time. People are actually dying over this and it ain’t a flu or a conspiracy. Since the Albuquerque Journal, the New Mexico Restaurant Association, Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce etc, have put a lot of time and money into sewing confusion and misinformation among the denizens of our fair burg I find it critical to toss a droplet of truth into this Bulging Unfeeling Lagoon of Lies, Shame, Hate, Ignorance and Thoughtlessness.
“Paid Sick Leave Opponents are Racist Capitalist Overlords. And they smell bad too.”
Name calling and click-bait titles aside, I’m dead serious.
There are currently 10 states and 23 other jurisdictions that have passed paid leave ordinances granting basic accrual rights to more than 46 million private sector workers dating back upwards of ten years. Councilors are stalling by asking for yet more studies, but I have to wonder if they’ve read from any of the numerous studies that have been conducted. Notably, UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) impact study, conducted for the city council LESS THAN 2 YEARS AGO (at no small fee to taxpayers), found that NOT ONE BUSINESS in a paid leave mandated jurisdiction has been shown to have closed because of these laws (UNM BBER Estimated Impact Of Mandated Paid Sick Leave In The City Of Albuquerque, October 2018) and that only a small number even registered an effect on their bottom line. At its most damning, the BBER study claims the effects of mandatory paid leave on businesses are “inconclusive”. The study also acknowledges, keenly, that, “Employees least likely to have leave are … likely to be low-income (90% with incomes below $15,000 per year) and either a second or third, or sole income earner in the household (49% and 39%).”
In other words, the people who are on the edge, who are supposedly incapable of pulling hard enough on those bootstraps of theirs, who are most exploitable, who are most BROWN and BLACK and who have historically built wealth for the ‘elites’ that grant us our dazzling first world lifestyles.
Even though the BBER study failed to identify a business that was closed by the implementation of paid leave legislation, let’s assume there is a cost to implement even a basic paid leave system. Currently, that cost does not rest on the business owner or consumer in any meaningful way but on the workers, their families, and social service programs. In the age of COVID-19, you don’t have to look hard for data showing poor, Black, and Brown people are dying at rates disproportionate to their populations. You also don’t have to look hard to find staggering numbers related to corporate bailouts.
Opponents also like to point out that paid leave has ‘failed’ in Albuquerque at the ballot and in previous council motions. As if this means we’re not in need of change. You know what other workers’ rights campaigns also failed before they were rightly written into law?
▪️The legality of Unions (1842).
▪️The abolition of slavery (1865).
▪️Minimum age requirements for laborers (1938).
▪️Equal pay based on sex (1963).
▪️The illegality of racial discrimination (1964).
▪️The illegality of age discrimination (1967).
▪️Occupational safety requirements (1970).
▪️The illegality of sex discrimination based on pregnancy (1978)
Are you seeing a pattern here? If it were up to businesses to grant these rights, we wouldn’t have them. It is incumbent upon the people who work the hardest for the least to demand them and to defend them. The outcome of Earned Paid Sick Leave legislation in New Mexico will give us yet another indication of which business leaders are “Compassionate Capitalists” (my favorite oxymoron) and which are just plain capitalists.
Please understand that my ire comes from a place of deep frustration. I have lived here my entire life and have a lot of “Burqueño pride”. I’m also deeply shamed and enraged at how our country, state, town etc. lets shit roll downhill. Especially when I know we have the technology to build dams. This isn’t an issue that should need fixing but here we are and our state representatives have the means of effecting the most expedient change. Do it.