I am a second-generation American, raised in a union home, and to my core I believe in the power of an organized working class and the ethos of solidarity.

I am, therefore, vehemently opposed to Mayor Ethan Strimling’s paid-time-off boondoggle, now before the City Council’s Health & Human Services Committee. Mandating specific benefits from employers deprives workers of the opportunity to negotiate their own, appropriate terms of employment and raises the barriers to employment opportunities.

The rise of the working class from powerless servitude to powerful middle class has hinged fundamentally upon the institution of collective bargaining, the centrifugal force in balancing power and equitably distributing wealth. My own experience as a small-business owner has proven it can help stabilize operations and increase productivity. And one has only to look at United Parcel Service to see an example of a large, well-oiled machine where both company and workforce benefit from a negotiated contract.

There was a time, not long ago, when the greatest threat to the advancement of the working class came from powerful industrialists who, through violence, intimidation and political coercion, attempted to dominate those who made their wealth possible. In a great and ironic twist of fate, that threat now rears its loathsome head in the form of this misguided legislation.

The mandatory sick pay ordinance negates the balances and attributes of negotiated benefits to both the owners of small businesses and the people who work for them. By establishing a mandated suite of entitlements with impossible rules, requiring huge resources, there is little to nothing left for negotiation between worker and business owner, especially small and micro businesses like mine. The Portland proposal also demands an increase to the property-tax rate to cover the expense of managing the program and funding a city Labor Department, an added burden to businesses, homeowners and working people that will lead to rent increases and price hikes.

Mandating the extraction of enormous resources from businesses and homeowners to this feel-good ordinance rips apart the very fabric of what has allowed the working class to take itself from filthy ghettos to good homes and sound neighborhoods.


Proponents claim there is negligible impact on businesses and workers in areas where similar laws have passed. When looking at the impact on large institutions, this is true. Large institutions primarily have only to concern themselves with additional record-keeping compliance, as they already offer benefits that meet or exceed such mandates.

Much of the same research, ignored by proponents, also indicates that when scaled down to the level of small businesses such as Union Bagel (my company), the impacts are enormous, destructive and even devastating.

Aside from raising prices, small businesses – those that make Portland the city we are – can end up reducing sales hours, automating, outsourcing, eliminating existing benefits, reducing work hours, freezing wages and, worst of all, laying off workers altogether. In fact, at a recent forum on this proposed ordinance, a business owner panelist and proponent of the legislation stated that reduced work hours and employee layoffs were a “sacrifice (he was) willing to accept.”

And the workers hit hardest, according to these studies? Low-wage, immigrant and minority: the very people proponents claim to champion. That is an injustice of unconscionable measure.

It doesn’t take much to end the life of a startup, especially a small one like mine. Increased risks and costs, gratuitously imposed upon us, raise the entry barriers for a whole contingent of potential hires. Many are struggling to get on their feet while others are newly entering the workforce. If the mayor’s ordinance passes and I determine it is safer to limit output than to hire seasonal workers, high school kids, immigrants and high-risk individuals, then my business, my neighborhood and my city suffer as a result.

The workers of today and those industrial tyrants of old can likely agree on one thing: The mayor’s sick leave proposal effectively decimates the core power of the working class, including those of us who own small businesses, and that is why it must be rejected.

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