Massachusetts Earned Sick Days, Testimony by James Freeman, Blue Bottle Coffee

TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF S900/H1739
Massachusetts Earned Paid Sick Time Act

TO: Daniel A. Wolf, Senate Chair, Thomas P. Conroy, House Chair, and members of the Joint Committee
on Labor and Workforce Development
FROM: James Freeman, Owner, Bluebottle Coffee Company
DATE: February 27, 2013

My name is James Freeman, and I am the owner of Blue Bottle Coffee Company, which is headquartered in Oakland, California, and also has locations in San Francisco and New York City. Blue Bottle strongly supports earned paid sick time and encourages the state of Massachusetts to pass S900/H1739. Based on our experience with San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, we believe the Massachusetts bill will be good for workers and good for business.
Blue Bottle Coffee is a coffee roaster and retailer. We have been offering all of our employees paid sick days since San Francisco’s PSLO went into effect in 2007. Although we were only required to provide sick days to our San Francisco staff, the passage of the PSLO gave us the nudge we needed to offer this important workplace protection to all of our employees. We have found that our employees are very appreciative, and as a result they work harder and are more productive. Moreover, implementing the law was straightforward.
We do not see any abuses. Good employees come to work when they are supposed to, and stay home when they are sick – as they should. The last thing we want is for a sick employee to come to work, potentially infecting fellow employees and customers. In a customer service business, this is crucial. When employees are ill and cannot come to work, they should not be worrying about whether they will be able to pay their bills.
Paid sick days are good for our business. It costs us about $2,500 to train one of our baristas – a significant amount of money for our company. As a result we want to retain good employees for as long as possible. Providing our workers with the support they need to recover from illness without risking financial security is an important retention tool that works: our workforce turn-over rate is low.
Although we voluntarily provide sick days in our locations that do not have paid sick days laws – New York City (which will implement a paid sick days law in 2014) and Oakland – we believe it is important that such laws exist. For us, the San Francisco law gave us the push we needed to start offering a benefit that we have come to realize is very important to our success and the success of our employees. When all businesses are required to offer sick days, the playing field is level for both businesses and workers.
Nearly 1 million Massachusetts workers risk losing their jobs and wages if they stay home to recover from illness or care for a sick child; That’s simply not right – for the workers themselves, for businesses, and for your state’s economy. I strongly encourage you to pass the Massachusetts Earned Paid Sick Time Act.
Respectfully submitted,
James Freeman