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September 23, 2002
Business Owners Back CA Family Leave Bill
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ifornia business owners spoke out last week in favor of a paid-leave bill now before Gov. Gray Davis.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the businesses, ranging from small high-tech firms to garment companies, believe paid leave would help retain employees and cut expenses for firms that want to provide such a benefit to their workers.

Business is hardly united behind the measure, though. The California Chamber of Commerce opposes it, and Thursday's news conference of business representatives in favor of it was in reaction to that.

The event, organized by the California Labor Federation, also was intended to increase public pressure on Davis, who has not taken a position on the measure, according to the Mercury News.

If Davis, who is in the midst of a re-election campaign, signs the bill, California would have the first mandatory paid-leave program in the country.

The bill would guarantee most workers six weeks of partially paid time off for a personal injury or illness, family illness, pregnancy or birth of a child. The money, 55 percent of salary up to $65,000 a year, would come from worker contributions to a state disability fund.

The bill originally required 12 weeks of paid leave and contributions from employers, but business opposition led to amendments.

Still, the Chamber opposes the bill, arguing that in a difficult economy, workers don't want a new tax. Moreover, it says, employers don't want more restrictions on how they do business.

"It takes away the employer's control over the absence policy," said Michele Perrault of the Chamber. "And it still applies to businesses under 50 employees. If you have five employees, you can lose two employees at the same time and you can't say yea or nay about it."

Nevertheless, businesses supporting the bill call it a way to retain good employees. "This is a no-risk bill and an important part of what we call family values in this country," said Elliott Hoffman, owner and founder of Oakland-based Just Desserts, where he instituted family leave for his workers 22 years ago. "It's a very significant benefit and the reason why we have a fair number of long-term people at our company."

To read the San Jose Mercury News article, click here.

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