Without a doubt, all eyes were focused on the outcome of the Paid Sick Leave vote, both here in Colorado and throughout the country. With 64.0% of the votes going against the initiative, Denver voters voiced a resounding “no thanks” to the idea of mandatory sick leave benefits for employees.
The initiative would have required every employer to provide paid sick days to employees at a rate of one hour per every thirty hours worked. Businesses with less than 10 employees would have been capped at 5 days of sick leave per year, while businesses with more than 10 employees would be capped at 9 days.
But, in a time when protesters have set up camp across from the state capital building and there exists a major pro-“common man” movement, why did a seemingly pro-employee initiative get so utterly defeated?
A campaign spokesman for the initiative said that the defeat was a result of its opponents' spending power. It is certainly true that there was more money available for campaigning against the initiative, with opponents including national figures such as the National Restaurant Association, and local figures such as Governor Hickenlooper and Mayor Hancock. Together, their efforts produced significant TV and radio air-time, as well as distribution of anti-initiative pamphlets handed out by small businesses throughout the city.
However, there was much more than mere campaign resources at play with the defeat of Initiative 300. Colorado is decidedly small-business oriented, and much more economically friendly to small businesses than many other states. As a result, there are quite a few Colorado businesses owned by the “common man.” And those owners showed up to vote.
The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) publishes an Economic Development Databook, which discusses the status of the Colorado economy. The Databook details segments of the economy and categories of businesses that make up the economic engine of the state, and identifies major trends within each of the segments and categories.
In the current 2010-2011 edition, the Databook highlights Colorado’s US News ranking, which places the state 3rd in the U.S. for the best states to start a business. According to the Databook’s own statistics, Colorado ranks 2nd in business start-ups per capita, and American Express’ OPEN Forum networking site for small businesses also ranks Colorado as the second most small-business friendly state.
What does all of this mean for you? Well, that depends on your situation.
Without Initiative 300 employees are still only entitled to the paid sick days provided under their employment agreements. However, the efforts made to defeat Initiative 300 show strong and distinct support for small businesses in Denver, and Colorado in general. As a major source of employment in the state, the continued success of small businesses will foster better living standards and continued economic development for businesses and individuals alike.
So, while Initiative 300 seemed like a great addition to employee rights at first glance, its long-term effect could have limited employee hiring and restrained a major segment of Colorado’s economy, resulting in a continued economic lull and reduced employment opportunities. Therefore, its defeat was a major win for both employers and employees.