University opposes act for sick leave

University administrators from across the District will appear in front of the D.C. City Council Tuesday to oppose a workers rights measure they feel would put a needless financial burden on local colleges.

The council is holding a public meeting to discuss and likely vote on a bill that would require businesses to pay all employees for sick days. GW officials said they are contesting the legislation because it would force them to keep an updated attendance database of more than 4,000 student employees – at an estimated annual cost of several million dollars.

Under the proposal, employees would amass one hour of sick leave for every 26 hours worked. Unions have called it a step forward for minimum wage workers, but college employers like GW say for them it will primarily affect students. Since faculty and staff are covered by health insurance, it would be the school’s responsibility to monitor and pay for part-time employee sick days.

The University has banded together with nine local schools to request that higher education institutions be exempt from the proposed law. Representatives from the schools said students do not need these extra benefits.

“I think our feeling is that that model just doesn’t quite fit at a university because virtually all the people we’re talking about here are students who have the assets to come to school, have health insurance and they all have housing,” said Craig Parker, a general counsel at Catholic.

Tracy Schario, a spokesperson for GW, said the University is being careful not to come out against the intent of the bill, but rather the wasteful layer of bureaucracy in higher education it creates.

“By and large, the principles of the bill we support, but as it applies to our student population, it’s a significant administrative burden, and it’s an unfunded mandate,” Schario said.

Several unions supporting the bill are being represented by D.C. Jobs with Justice, an organization that advocates for workers’ rights. A spokesperson said with the high cost of college, students need just as many benefits as lower-class workers.

“There are a lot of students who count on the income that they get from on-campus jobs or off-campus jobs to buy books or to pay rent,” said Mackenzie Baris, a coordinator for D.C. Jobs with Justice. “And so for these students that count on that income, they are in the same situation as a regular adult worker who’s trying to make rent every month.”

Schario emphasized that student employees are generally financially stable enough to curb the need of receiving sick pay.

“I think by the nature of student employment, it’s part time, it’s temporary,” she said. “We hope that students are capable of managing their budget to account for things like this. It’s not a natural fit for this population.”

Even if the bill is approved on Tuesday, it could be altered and voted on again in the coming weeks. Assistant Vice President for Government and Coporate Affairs Bernard Demczuk, Director of Community Relations Michael Akin and Student Association President Nicole Capp are all expected to attend.

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