Connecticut’s state Senate squeaked through a bill this week mandating that some employers provide paid sick leave to their employees. If it passes the state House and is signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as anticipated, Connecticut will be the first state in the nation with such a requirement.
Big Labor championed the measure as a public health issue and waged a savvy campaign for the issue by playing on the public fear of someone spitting in their food in radio advertisements. The advertising likely wasn’t as effective, however, as was the Governor’s personal persuasion of wobbly senators on the floor of the state Senate.
That the measure is diametrically opposed to Gov. Malloy’s “the state is open for business” message was apparently less important.
The message to cost-conscious small businesses, however, is crystal clear. It does not matter to the state that such employers already battle some of the highest energy costs in the country, an expensive and inefficient transportation system, high labor costs, and a heavy tax burden. The State of Connecticut is enthusiastic about creating new obstacles to growth, rather than tearing down the old ones.
The underlying assumption of the bill is that employers will simply resign themselves to the higher costs and muddle through as well as is possible. In the reality of the information technology age, the response from business will not be muted submission, at least not in the long run.
Recent news clips from Europe and the U.S. point to the future. Last week it was reported that fast food behemoth McDonalds ordered 7,000 self-order kiosks for its restaurants in Europe. The innovation will assuredly mean far fewer McDonalds employees at those locations.
Think that it’s only in Europe and it will never come to these fair shores? Sky magazine’s May 2011 issue notes a handful of restaurants in the U.S., including New York’s JFK airport, where patrons can place their orders through an iPad app. The next frontier — smartphone based ordering — won’t be far behind.
These innovations mean that it is not only possible, but preferable to replace high labor costs with capital investments in technology. As Connecticut artificially drives up those labor costs with mandates like paid sick leave, it hastens the day when more Connecticut workers are replaced by machines.
Heath W. Fahle served as executive director of the Connecticut Republican Party from 2007-09. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com