The most notorious workplace benefits bill of the year, AB 2716, will be considered by a key Senate committee today, and on behalf of supporters, the Field Research Corporation has released a doozy of a poll. By a three-to-one margin, voters support a state law to guarantee that workers receive a minimum number of sick days from their employer. Also, three-quarters of voters “are concerned” about the millions of estimated workers without paid sick days. Moreover, the same 75% – 25% margin finds voters believe paid sick day laws will significantly increase the cost of doing business and the costs will be passed on to customers.

So voters are basically a sympathetic bunch, and when asked they acknowledge that new benefits aren’t free. But the poll doesn’t ask what would be the only useful question: given a choice between a compassionate benefit and certain job losses or pay cuts, which is a higher priority?

But the most absurd finding in this poll was that three-quarters of voters also agreed with the statement that “paid sick days is a basic worker right, just like being paid a decent wage.” This measures rhetoric, not any useful public policy concept. By no stretch could sick leave be considered a “basic worker right.” Nor is minimum wage. Nor is overtime. Nor, for that matter, is a job. All of those are state-mandated benefits that our society has decided it is wealthy enough to provide. Freedom of speech is a right, so is freedom from government barging into your house without probably cause. Those have nothing to do with the wealth of a nation or bargaining power of workers.

Elevating negotiated worker benefits to the status of “rights” is obscene.