2008-07-09 / Front Page

Sick Time Proposal Stops Possible 500-Job Development In Village

by David Pugh Buckeye Staff Writer

Jim Wyse, Archbold mayor, said a company that could employ 500 workers in Archbold may not locate here due to the Ohio Healthy Families Act.

Ohioans for Healthy Families, a coalition of individuals and organizations, is leading an effort to put the Healthy Families Act, or HFA, on the November ballot. They are expected to be successful.

The act, if approved by voters, would require Ohio companies that employ 25 or more workers to allow full-time employees to earn at least seven days of paid sick time per year.

Wyse told council members at the Monday night, July 7, meeting that the potential employer told him three weeks ago that as long as the possibility exists that the HFA could become state law, the company will not locate in Archbold, and another Ohio location could be scaled back.

Since 2006

"We have been working on this since April 2006," Wyse said.

"I felt as though we were making excellent progress. But when this ballot initiative came about, Ohio was taken off the list.

"They visited here six times last year, and twice in the last three months," Wyse said.

The company was considering employing 500 people at an Archbold site, and Wyse said, "that's a conservative number!

"Water, sewers, the workforce- all of those things are in place. It's simply this ballot initiative that turned the prospect away," Wyse said.

Wyse said because there is still a possibility that the company could locate in the village, he could not release any details about the firm or its business.

"I don't have permission to talk specifics," he said.

The HFA

The Ohioans for Health Families website, www.sickdaysohio. org, states the group is "a statewide coalition of citizens and organizations who are leading the effort to make Ohio the most family-friendly state in America."

Steve Buehrer, state senator (R-Delta), said on its face, the HFA's seven days of paid sick time sounds like a good idea.

He said most employers have some form of time off for illness available to employees, and there is the federal Family Medical Leave act that allows employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for illness or to care for another.

What's being proposed under the HFA "is something no other state has.

"It's a mandatory seven days of sick time.

"Businesses, particularly small businesses, are struggling, and we're talking about piling one more mandate on top of them," he said.

In fact, Buehrer said the HFA could be a detriment to employees, as some small, and not-so-small, businesses take away other employee benefits to meet HFA's seven-paid-sickdays mandate.

"You can't pile seven free days on top of their costs," Buehrer said.

"It's one more step in making Ohio less competitive" in attracting and growing businesses.

Further, Buehrer said the HFA only impacts businesses with 25 or more employees. Some companies on the cusp of the 25-employee mark may stop hiring to avoid the HFA requirements.

"That's detrimental to what we're all trying to do, which is to create more jobs," Buehrer said.

"Every employer many not offer paid sick time, but they'll allow it non-paid, or allow use of vacation time," he said.

Despite reports of workers being fired for being unable to work due to illness, Buehrer said he doubts such stories.

"Employees being randomly fired over a head cold? I don't think that's true," he said.

He said one of the backers of the HFA is the Ohio Democratic Party.

Buehrer suggested the Democrats are using the HFA "to drive a certain type of voter to the polls to help out in the general election.

"It's pure politics," he said.

Before Legislature

Buehrer said proponents of the HFA gathered enough signatures to put the issue before the general assembly.

The act received some committee hearings in the Ohio House of Representatives, but Buehrer said when it became apparent that there was no middle ground, and no way a compromise could be reached, no action was taken.

That sent the proponents out to gather enough signatures to put the issue on the Ohio ballot.

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