The Phillies Are Not Phigments of Imagination

by Walter Brasch

Newspapers are often a “court of last resort” for our readers whose problems can’t be dealt with elsewhere.

Thus, it was no great surprise to receive a letter from a young girl who was confused about the Philadelphia Phillies. In her short life, she had never seen the Phillies.

Her little friends, so she wrote me, said that the Phillies were a figment of her imagination, a team that was made up so that there would be something to anchor the National League basement. She says she was told that sportswriters went along with it because they always wanted to write fiction and needed something to do between calls from irate Little League parents.

Well, Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the cynicism of reporters and the skepticism of a nation with no direction. They think nothing can be that bad unless it was made up. But, Virginia, the truth is that there are Phillies and, unfortunately, they are that bad. But, it wasn’t always that way.

The first game ever played in the National League was played in 1876 in Philadelphia. Of course, the Philadelphia team didn’t last a season, but if it did, it would have been a great team. In 1883, the Phillies showed up and never left-even if it seems that way now and then. In fact, since 1900, the Phillies have earned six of the top 20 spots of the worst records of any baseball team. That may or may not be why the Phillies tried to disguise themselves under aliases-the Philadelphia Quakers (1883-1889) and the Philadelphia Blue Jays (1943-1949). The Quakers, of course, are a peaceful people who don’t believe in battle; blue jays can be vicious. Neither name helped the team.

Your little friends may tell you the only reason the Philadelphia A’s and Connie Mack of the American League eventually left the City of Brotherly Love, whoich has the most rabid sports fans in the nation, was because they were tired of competing for tickets against a team that sold about as many tickets for losing as did the A’s for winning. But, you must believe that even in losing, the Phillies are real.

Not believe in the Phillies? You might as well not believe in their seven league championships, in the Whiz Kids of’ ’50, or the great collapse of ’64 when they were leading the league by six games with just two weeks to go, and then finished in a tie for 2nd. Only a Philly could pull that off. You might as well not believe in the Phillies of ’80 who won the World Series, the only time in a century that happened.

Not believe in the Phillies? You’d have to not believe in Mike Schmidt, maybe the greatest third baseman ever; you’d have to forget Garry Maddox, the “secretary of de-fence” who covered the outfield better than snow in February. You’d have to give up believing in Ed Delahanty, the first Philly to enter the Hall of Fame, or Chuck Klein who entered the Hall with a .326 average and statistics that would choke even the Nielsen ratings.

If there were no Phillies, there would have been no Grover Cleveland Alexander, one of baseball’s greatest pitchers, who was sold because the owner needed the money. You’d not hear about Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts or Tug McGraw, no Richie Ashburn, Bob Boone or Del Ennis, no Larry Bowa, Granny Hamner, Jim Konstanty, or even “Puddin’ Head” Jones. Not believe in the Phillies? You might as well not believe in John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Mike Lieberthal, Jim Bunning, Curt Schilling, and Lenny Dykstra.

If there were no Phillies, there’d be nowhere for Jimmy Foxx, Pete Rose, and Dale Murphy to have gone at the end of their careers.

You’d have to forget about managers Dallas Green and Paul Owens. And, you’d have to not believe in Charlie Manuel, the manager with the most wins for the Phillies and who led the team in 2008-the year after it racked up its 10,000th loss in its history-to its second World Series title, only to be fired three years later.

Not believe in the Phillies? How could someone not believe in Harry Kalas, the Voice of the Phillies for almost four decades.

Not believe in the Phillies? You’d have to not believe that owners are poor judges of talent who can take great teams and trade them away, and then spend millions for a pitching staff that proved it could be competitive at the Little League World Series.

Not believe in the Phillies? You’d have to suspend your disbelief that a beer and hotdog can cost $11.50, and the cheapest seat, with a view of-well, actually, nothing-is $20.          Your little friends with their little minds can’t comprehend the vastness of a team that is again about a decade or so out of 1st. In this great playing field of ours, we are but mere synthetic fibers on the Astroturf of life, unable to grasp the universe, let alone the origin of the Phanatic.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Phillies. It exists as certainly as injuries, dropped balls, and parking lot jams. No Phillies? Thank God it exists, and will exist forever. A decade from now they may even again win a championship, and continue to make glad the heart of frustrated fans everywhere.

Somewhere, Virginia, the sun is shining bright. But, there is no joy in Citizens Bank Park, for the anemic Phillies have once again struck out.

[Assisting on this column was Francis Church of the New York Sun. Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigative analysis of the economic, political, environmental, and health effects of fracking throughout the country.]

Will Michael Nutter Be the Deciding Vote on the Shale Bill?

Update: The Pennsylvania Senate approved the shale fee bill Tuesday by a vote of 31-19. The House followed suit Wednesday, approving it by a narrow vote of 101-90.

Will Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter be the deciding vote on a bad Marcellus Shale bill?

In typical fashion, the Pennsylvania Legislature is ramming through a shale bill, including a natural gas drilling fee, at the very last minute that is worse than anything we have seen so far.

Rumors are that the Mayor is pressuring Philadelphia Senators to take the deal, which is bad for all Pennsylvanians and not so hot for Philly.

There has been tremendous pressure on Southeastern Senators to hold out for a tax that is more than a pittance, and to restore to local governments the constitutional right to protect their communities from the excesses of drillers gone wild.

The Democratic leadership team of Jay Costa and Vince Hughes have breathed life into a Democratic Caucus that has existed pretty much to collect their paychecks. They have done a fabulous job pushing for strong environmental protection against a legion of gas lobbyists, while the Governor’s inclination is to give the drillers the keys to the state and walk away. Philadelphia Senators Vince Hughes and Tony Williams are the most likely to take the bait.

We need a round two on the shale bill. Our Senators, and the Mayor, should hold out for a better deal.

Bank Swap Deals Cost Philadelphia City, School District

( – promoted by John Morgan)

Large financial institutions, including many that received financial bailouts in the wake of the financial crisis, are making hundreds of millions of dollars off interest rate swaps negotiated with the City and School District of Philadelphia.

That’s the key finding in a new report from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. We found that swap deals negotiated with banks such as Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have cost the city and school district $331 million in net interest payments and cancellation fees. If interest rates continue to remain low, still-active swaps could cost the city another $240 million in future net interest payments.

WHYY’s NewsWorks was there and posted this brief video clip.

Our report recommends that banks refund a portion of the cancellation fees they received for terminating bad deals and renegotiate those deals which are currently active.

Financial institutions have returned to profitability after the financial crisis, yet some Philadelphia schools cannot afford to keep nurses on staff. Now the banks have an opportunity to step up and help prevent more damaging cuts to schools and public safety, just as taxpayers helped the banks avoid total collapse just a few years ago.

Some other news outlets covered our release of the report yesterday. Check out the coverage.

Former Editor Sues Philadelphia Police for Constitutional Violations in Her Arrest

Editor’s note:  The owner of OpEDNews Rob Kall, is a personal friend.  John

by Walter M. Brasch

A former managing editor for the online newspaper, OpEdNews, has sued the city of Philadelphia and eight of its police officers for violating her Constitutional rights.

Cheryl Biren-Wright, Pennsauken, N.J., charges the defendants with violating her 1st, 4th, and 14th amendment rights. The civil action, filed in the U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, is based upon her arrest during a peaceful protest Sept. 12, 2009, at the Army Experience Center (AEC) in the Franklin Mills Mall.

According to the complaint, Biren-Wright, who was not a part of the demonstration but at the mall as a reporter-photographer, was arrested and charged with failure to disperse and conspiracy, second degree misdemeanors. The charges were subsequently dropped by the Philadelphia district attorney.

The Philadelphia police also arrested and charged six protestors with conspiracy and failure to disperse-Elaine Brower, 55, New York, N.Y.; Richie Marini, 35, Staten Island, N.Y.; Joan Pleune, 70, Brooklyn, N.Y.(one of the original Freedom Riders in 1961); Beverly Rice, 72, New York, N.Y.; Debra Sweet, 57, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Sarah Wellington, 26, Piermont, N.Y. Two months after Biren-Wright’s case was dropped, the six protestors were found not guilty in Philadelphia Municipal Court.

Paul J. Hetznecker, who represented the six defendants in the criminal trial, and Biren-Wright in her civil suit, believes that police over-reaction to protestors, as well as their lack of knowledge or appreciation for Constitutional protections, may be “a systemic problem throughout the country.” Hetznecker says under Constitutional and state law, “There can not be an arbitrary and capricious decision to end the civil rights of the protestors.”

The civil suit complaint charges that police violated Biren-Wright’s First Amendment rights to “gather information . . . to cover a matter of public interest including the law enforcement activity in public places.” Actions by the police deprived her of 4th and 14th amendment rights that, according to the complaint, protect against “unreasonable search and seizure,” “loss of physical liberty,” and “freedom from excessive use of unreasonable and justified force.”

The suit lists six separate counts:

         * Abridgement of her rights under the First Amendment to observe and record news in a public place.

         * False arrest and imprisonment

         * Use of excessive force by the police.

         * False arrest under state law

         * Common Law Assault under state law

         * Failure of the City of Philadelphia to adequately train and supervise its police. The complaint charges that because of accepted practices, the defendants may have believed “that their actions would not be properly investigated by supervisory officers and that the misconduct would not be investigated or sanctioned, but would be tolerated.” The policy, according to the complaint, “demonstrates a deliberate indifference on the part of the policymakers of the City of Philadelphia, to the constitutional rights of persons within the City, and were the cause of the violations of the Plaintiff’s rights. . . .”

Named in the suit in addition to the City of Philadelphia are Lt. Dennis Konczyk, officers Tyrone Wiggins, John Logan, Robert Anderson, Donald West, William Stuski, and two unnamed John Does.

The Philadelphia Police Department refused to comment about the suit as a matter of policy regarding “issues in court,” according to Jillian Russell, Department spokesperson.

In August 2008, the Army opened the AEC, a 14,500 square foot “virtual educational facility” with dozens of video games. The Center, deliberately located near an indoor skateboard park, replaced five more traditional recruiting offices, and was designated as a two-year pilot program. The initial cost was $12 million.

Army recruiters could not actively recruit children under 17, but could talk with the teens and answer any of their questions about the Army. Among the virtual games was one in which children as young as 13 could ride a stationary Humvee and shoot a simulated M-16 rifle at life-like video images of Muslims and terrorists.

Because of the emphasis upon war, and a requirement that all persons had to sign in at the center, thus allowing the recruiters to follow-up as much as four or five years later, peace activists began speaking out against the AEC.

To counter what was quickly becoming a public relations problem, the Army sent out news releases, picked up by the mainstream media, and established a full social media campaign to explain the “benefits” of the AEC. The protests continued.

Elaine Brower, whose son was in Iraq on his third tour of duty, told OpEdNews a day after her arrest: “The AEC is giving guns to 13-year-olds, drawing them in with violent video games. As more and more Afghan civilians and U.S. military are being killed in the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, we’re saying ‘no’ to these wars. We’ve got to stop the flow of youth into the military, where they’re being used to commit war crimes in our name.”

With a police permit, and escorted by officers from Philadelphia’s Civil Affairs Unit, about 200-250 protestors-most of them middle-aged or senior citizens, many of them veterans-had come to the AEC, believing their First Amendment rights were being protected. The protest, although noisy at times, was peaceful; the counter-demonstration wasn’t.

According to the complaint, “The counter-demonstrators [members of an organization known as The Gathering of Eagles] yelled, jeered and taunted the AEC protestors. At no time did [the police] direct, or attempt to limit the First Amendment activities of the counter-demonstrators,” nor were they ever told to disperse.

Throughout the demonstration, the protestors had not given any indication that they posed any physical threat to others. However, about 45 minutes after the demonstration began, the police, under direction of Lt. Konczyk, ordered the protestors to disperse.

At that point, Biren-Wright, according to the complaint, “placed herself outside the immediate area . . . so as not to interfere with the police activity.” She continued to photograph and report on the demonstration. The complaint charges that Lt. Konczyk, “without just cause or legal justification,” directed several officers to arrest her, walking past several protestors and counter-demonstrators. She says she told the officers she was a member of the press. At no time, she says, did she participate as a demonstrator nor verbally or physically threaten anyone. The officers, says Biren-Wright, arrested her without any warning. The arresting officer’s “degree of anger-he was clearly red-faced-was inappropriate,” she recalls. The police, says Biren-Wright, “were clearly targeting me, trying to keep me from recording the demonstration and their reactions.”

One officer, says Biren-Wright, “unnecessarily twisted my arm.” Another officer seized her camera and personal items. One of the officers put plastic cuffs on her wrists “so tight that it caused significant pain, swelling and bruising, and an injury that lasted for several weeks,” according to the complaint.

Biren-Wright’s 15-year-old daughter was shopping in the mall during the protest, but had reunited with her mother shortly before the arrests. Her daughter, says Biren-Wright, “came closer upon the arrest and I told the officer she was my daughter and a minor and would be alone.” The officer, says Biren-Wright, snapped, “You should have thought of that before.” At the processing center that police had previously set up at the mall, Biren-Wright told several officers that her daughter was alone in the mall and was from out of state. “None of them did anything to ensure her safety,” she says. The daughter, unsupervised, eventually found Rob Kall, OpEdNews editor, who drove her to the jail to take her mother’s keys and then drove her home, where she spent the night alone.

Outside the mall, counter-protestors shouted obscenities as those arrested boarded the police bus. “They were standing at the door to the bus,” says Biren-Wright, “and posed a safety issue to us since we were in handcuffs.”

The six who were arrested and Biren-Wright were initially taken to the 15th District jail. Richie Marini, the lone male arrested, was kept at the district jail. The six women were transferred to the jail at the jail of the Philadelphia Police headquarters, known by locals as the “Roundhouse,” where a nurse took each woman’s vital signs and asked if there were any injuries. “I showed him my wrist and thumb that were already red and swollen” from the restrictive handcuffs, says Biren-Wright. His response, she says, was “That doesn’t count.”

Biren-Wright, along with the other five women, was held for 14 hours. At 5 a.m., she says, they were released from the “Roundhouse” onto a dark and barren street-there were no taxis anywhere near-and locked out of the police station. Although the women had cell phones, they had not been allowed to call for rides while in the jail area. Outside, they called friends, but waited until help arrived. Marini was released from the district jail later that morning.

The only reason Biren-Wright’s pictures of the demonstration survived is because she had secretly removed the memory chip during the arrest. When the camera was finally returned, “all of the settings were messed up and the lens was not replaced properly.”

The Army closed the AEC at the end of the pilot program. It had claimed that because of increased enlistments nationwide, the Center was no longer needed. It never acknowledged that the protestors and the public reaction may have been a reason for the closing.

In an unrelated case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled in October 2010 [Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle] that recording police activity in public places is protected by Constitutional guarantees. This month, the ACLU settled a case, for $48,500, in Pittsburgh when a University of Pittsburgh police officer arrested Elijah Matheny and charged him with felony violation of the state’s Wiretap Act for using a cell phone to record police activity. Matheny spent a night in jail following his arrest. [See: Matheny v. County of Allegheny, et al.] The ACLU charged that the district attorney’s office “had engaged in a pattern of erroneously advising law enforcement that audio taping police officers in public violates Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act.” Following the Third Circuit’s decision in the Kelly case, a conviction against Matheny is expected to be overturned.

The arrests in Philadelphia, Carlisle, and Pittsburgh underscores two major problems, both prevalent throughout the country. The first problem is a lack of understanding and respect for the Constitution by a large number, although not a majority, of police officers. For that reason, all police forces and district attorneys offices, from small isolated rural communities to the largest urban departments, need to have constant education about civil rights and Constitutional guarantees-and the penalties for violating those rights.

The second major problem is inherent within the mass media. Reporters need to know how and when to challenge authority to protect their own and the public’s rights. A camera crew from the PBS “Frontline” series was at the protest, but abruptly stopped recording the demonstration after Brower was arrested and either before or during Biren-Wright’s arrest. Rob Kall later said that a member of the “Frontline” crew told him the police informed them they would be arrested if they continued to film the demonstration.

Police threats, which violate Constitutional guarantees, place a “chilling effect” upon the media to observe and record actions by public officials. Even without a direct order by a public official, reporters may do what they perceive to be what others want them to do. The media, like police and public officials, also need constant education to know when police orders are lawful and when they are not. An order to move away from a scene may be lawful. An order to stop filming a scene upon threat of arrest is not.

In federal court, in the case of Biren v. City of Philadelphia, et al., these issues, and others, will be raised. But had there been an understanding of the Constitution by the police, the case would never have gotten to the point of a federal civil suit.

 

Philadelphia Mayor Vetoes Paid Sick Leave Bill

( – promoted by John Morgan)

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

Some bad news out of Philadelphia Tuesday – Mayor Michael Nutter vetoed legislation that would have allowed every worker in the city to earn paid sick days.

As Lonnie Golden, a professor of economics and labor studies at Penn State Abington, and I wrote in an op-ed earlier this month, a paid sick days law would be good for business, good for the economy and good for public health in Philadelphia.

The public seems to agree. Seven in 10 Philadelphians supported the bill, according to a recent poll.

As we wrote in our op-ed:

Paid sick days are good for business and the community, as well as for families. Businesses save because worker turnover declines, lowering hiring costs and eliminating lost productivity as new workers get up to speed.

The cost of hiring is high compared to paying for sick days because managers and human-resource professionals who recruit earn more than lower-wage workers. Businesses also save because paid sick days reduce worker resentment and improve worker-manager relations.

The community benefits because, when sick workers stay home, disease doesn’t spread to other workers or to customers. Workers also obtain more timely medical care and recover faster, reducing lost productivity and holding down health-care costs.

Hopefully, City Council will agree and override the Mayor’s veto when it reconvenes in September.

Mary Bricker-Jenkins and Neighborhood Networks urge support for Cheri Honkala for Sheriff in Philly

Two recent updates to Cheri Honkala’s website show exciting signs of support for a campaign based on the promise to keep people in their homes and help give communities control over their land.

The first is from Mary Bricker-Jenkins, a social worker, author, and professor emeritus at Temple urging her fellow social workers to support Cheri in any way they can.  She wrote, in part,

You came into social work because you wanted change.

You learned quickly that we need fundamental, systemic change.

The “change we could believe in” hasn’t delivered.

So let’s listen to Ghandi:

We need to BE the change we wish to see in the world. . .

That’s why Cheri Honkala, co-founder of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC),is running for sheriff in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the Green Party ticket.

Neighborhood Networks is an organization in Philly that has, as far as I know, always been a progressive Democratic group.  In their message of support urging members to help get Cheri on the ballot, Neighborhood Networks said,

[T]here are

two races that Neighborhood Networks may well want to put resources into

in the Fall.  In one of those races, it’s time to act NOW.

Immediate action is needed in the race for Sheriff if we hope to have

any real choice in November.  That’s because Cheri Honkala, a Green

Party candidate that we may want to support, needs help just to get on

the ballot. The two major parties may not agree on much, but they do

agree that it’s in their interest to make it really hard for third party

candidates to compete.  So just for us to have a choice, Cheri needs

4,000 signatures of Philadelphia registered voters.  She aims to collect

them by July 1.

The Sheriff’s office is an object of scandal right now, with the

Controller having found that $53 million in fees is unaccounted for.  So

job one is to clean the place up.  But then it’s also important that

the Sheriff’s office operate in the public interest.  If Cheri is on the

ballot, she will bring to the election a lively debate about whether the

public interest at this time of growing economic distress and growing

homelessness requires that evictions be stopped.  We need to have that

debate.

So, if you’d like to get Cheri on the ballot, please call her at

888-434-7914.  Or just drop into her office at 718 Market Street and

offer to help out.

Paid Sick Days Can Help Make Philadelphia a High Road City of Opportunity

( – promoted by John Morgan)

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

Last week, I wrote that when you look at the positive benefits and the low costs of Philadelphia’s proposed paid sick days legislation, it could end up paying for itself.

As I wrote that, I could almost hear a collective gasp from neoclassical economists: “If it paid for itself, employers would already do it!”

Employers in the standard economic model are assumed to be all knowing (they have “perfect information”) about the present and all possible futures. When it comes to whether to offer paid sick days, for example, it is assumed that employers can estimate the turnover savings that would result as well as any productivity benefit.

If you embrace the standard model, all employer behavior is the result of a profit-maximizing calculation. Thus, the difference between employers that offer paid sick days and those that don’t is that the profit-maximizing calculation comes out differently for the two groups. One group of employers finds that paid sick days pay for themselves. The other group finds that paid sick days don’t pay for themselves. (Six out of 10 workers are at employers that offer paid sick days without a mandate and four out of 10 workers are at employers that don’t provide paid sick days.)

Now I’m an “institutional economist” who rejects the perfect information assumptions of standard economics. I also reject the standard view of how businesses make decisions as implausible, which means we need another explanation.

I also happen to direct a small business that employs eight people, and we offer paid sick leave. The idea that we do because we’ve done some precise calculation that it’s good for business is, well, laughable. We do believe that it’s good for business, but that belief is more an expression of our organizational philosophy and approach, rather than something we can “prove” mathematically. If we’re going to expect employees to go the extra mile when we have proposals due or a major event on the calendar, we need to be understanding when employees are sick or facing a family crisis.

So let me offer a different explanation to the standard economists’ view about what distinguishes employers that provide paid sick leave from those that don’t. What distinguishes these employers is that they have different “business strategies” and associated organizational and human strategies.

By and large, businesses that provide sick leave buy into the idea that treating employees fairly pays for itself. These businesses may also see paid sick leave as part of a reciprocal relationship in which employer and employee recognize each other’s needs. Businesses that provide paid sick days may also have a bit more technological and organizational sophistication: they know that tracking paid sick days is a one-time $100 adjustment to a time sheet or payroll service contract; they have the experience and confidence to know that “sky is falling” claims about the astronomical costs of administrating paid sick days are silly.

So here are two questions:

  • Does Philadelphia – or any city or state – want more businesses with enlightened approaches that lead them to provide paid sick leave or more with business strategies that mean they don’t provide paid sick leave?
  • Which of the following is more likely to get you more businesses with enlightened approaches: (1) advanced and effectively enforced labor standards, including paid sick leave, or (2) having low standards?

Ideally, advanced standards should be accompanied by technical assistance that help businesses shift their strategies in ways that make complying with standards a natural outgrowth of operating practices. For example, the city could give Philadelphia’s Sustainable Business Network (SBN) a contract to manage a “sustainable small business partnership” that promotes advanced organizational practices across the board at employers with less than 50 workers. The mix of carrot and stick, technical assistance and mandate, is more effective than either alone. Our shorthand for this common sense and pragmatic combination is “pave the high road and block the low road.”

In the environmental area, the idea that high standards promote innovation and economic competitiveness is gaining ground, helped by mainstream support from the likes of Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. In the labor area, there’s not as much embrace of the idea that advanced standards can drive innovation. There is more embrace of the idea that 19th century labor standards gets you something other than 19th century capitalism.

But when it comes to people as well as to the environment, Philadelphia wants to be ahead of the curve in adapting enlightened workplace standards. That’s how to attract and grow entrepreneurs and committed workers who can make Philadelphia a center for innovation and growth.

Third and State This Week: Teacher Salaries, Legislative Updates & Paid Sick Leave in Philadelphia

This week at Third and State, we blogged about teacher salaries and a paid sick leave bill in Philadelphia City Council, along with providing legislative updates on efforts to cut unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania and advance a state budget with deep cuts to education and human services.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On workplace issues, Steve Herzenberg takes apart an analysis by an economist for the National Federation of Independent Business that vastly overstates the impact of a paid sick leave bill now before Philadelphia City Council.
  • On unemployment insurance, Mark Price reports on the defeat of an anti-worker unemployment compensation bill in the state House, and has a follow-up post with data on income in York County to explain what is at stake when politicians tinker with unemployment.
  • On the state budget, Chris Lilienthal writes about House passage of a state budget that cuts $1 billion from public schools and reduces Governor Corbett’s budget by $471 million for health and human services for women, children and people with disabilities.
  • Finally, on education, Steve Herzenberg highlights a project that is educating Americans on the relatively low teacher pay in this country compared to the most successful educational systems in the world.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Using NFIB Economist’s Estimates on Paid Sick Days: It’s Not Cricket

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

As a kid living near Manchester in the north of England, my first love was cricket. The sport (it is a sport) comes up nowadays when I use the phrase “it’s not cricket” – as in, it’s not acceptable, it’s not done.

In a report circulated to Philadelphia City Council and the media (but not online that I can find), Dr. William Dunkelberg estimated the cost to employers of enacting paid sick days legislation in Philadelphia. Even if you oppose paid sick days, you shouldn’t use the Dunkelberg estimates because, well,  “It’s not cricket.”  The estimates are so transparently inflated that folks who live in a fact-based world shouldn’t use them.

Dr. Dunkelberg, the Chief Economist of the National Federation of Independent Business, conducted an analysis of implementing paid sick days, concluding that it would cost $350 million to $752 million to implement, and would reduce employment by 4,000 jobs.

So what’s wrong with this estimate? (This post draws from a more extended critique of Dunkelberg online.)

The most basic mistake is that Dr. Dunkelberg double counts the maximum cost of paid sick days. He assumes that workers will take all their legally permitted paid sick days each year, costing $350 million. He then says that some of the absent workers will be temporarily replaced. The maximum cost of this, if every worker is replaced, would be another $350 million. So that gets you to $700 million. Add $52 million in compliance costs at businesses that already have paid sick days and you get Dunkelberg’s $752 million figure.

But wait a minute. If workers aren’t sick, they get their job done at a cost to the employer of $350 million. If those workers are out sick and temporary replacements are hired, the work still gets done but somehow it costs the employer an additional $700 million? Wrong. The additional cost is $350 million – $700 million minus $350 million equals $350 million. I keep asking myself, am I missing something here? He can’t possibly have made this kind of mistake, can he? He can and he did.

Beyond this, consider two assumptions that drive Dr. Dunkelberg’s high-cost estimate.

First, he assumes that all workers take all of their sick leave. Evidence from national surveys and San Francisco indicates that people actually take a third to 40% of their permitted leave.  Many workers view paid sick days as insurance – to be saved up in case they are needed, not used as personal days or extra vacation. Using the 40% figure, $350 million becomes $140 million.

Second, let’s consider how much employers actually hire replacements. Data from San Francisco indicate that employers do so less than 10% of the time. That means the additional, out-of-pocket, labor costs (for employers currently without paid sick days) fall to less than $14 million, a far cry from $700 million.

To be fair, there will be some lost productivity when workers are not replaced. It’s hard to say how large this will be. Many workers who are occasionally out sick “get their work done” anyway. (I don’t notice my work disappearing when I’m out.) Where that is not possible (e.g., nursing home care, customer service jobs, hotel housekeeping), other workers may pick up the slack. Based on this, the $14 million might climb to somewhere between $50 million and $100 million.

But wait, we haven’t even considered yet a series of positive benefits from paid sick days:

  • Reduced turnover and recruitment and training costs
  • Improved worker-supervisor relations and higher levels of work effort and commitment as workers’ reciprocate for paid sick days
  • Reduced health problems due to contagion of other workers and of customers or clients

When you take all of these factors into account, there is a solid analytical and empirical reason for believing that implementing paid sick days would pay for itself – or better.

Bottom line, when carefully scrutinized, William Dunkelberg’s analysis of the costs of the proposed Philadelphia paid sick days ordinance is simply not credible. Regardless of whether you think paid sick leave is a good idea or not, if you agree with me about the Dunkelberg study, I hope you won’t use it. Because using something you know is wrong, “that’s not cricket.”

Come back next week for another take on why advanced labor standards such as paid sick leave can be good for the economy.

Barletta Compares Philadelphia to Pakistan’s Harboring of Bin Laden

Congressman Lou Barletta, a man who never saw a side of the immigration debate he wouldn’t demagogue, has done it once more.  He is equating Philadelphia and other cities with Pakistan for harboring Osama Bin Laden.  His new legislation would cut all federal funds from so called “sanctuary cities” which offer safe haven to undocumented immigrants.  Philadelphia is one such city.

I hope Lou doesn’t hate high food prices or scarcity of food since immigrants, many of them here illegally, pick most of our food.  He’s probably like his fellow conservative hypocrites who cry and howl for free markets until their gas prices hit $4/gallon.  His quote:

“Right now we’re questioning whether Pakistan was creating a safe harbor for Osama bin Laden,” Barletta said during the brief interview, “and here in our own country we have mayors who are creating safe harbors for people who are here illegally.”

I’m sure we all appreciate Lou’s equating Philadelphia’s humane policy with that of Pakistan giving safe haven to the world’s deadliest terrorist, don’t we?  Barletta needs to get a grip.