Press "Enter" to skip to content

Business First, Workers Last: South Dakota Ignores Advantages of Paid Sick Leave

Governor Kristi Noem brags a lot about keeping South Dakota “open for business” when coronavirus hit and claims credit for brilliant (but exaggerated) economic results that are due mostly to Uncle Sam’s support.

The Governor makes her inflated economic claims with no accounting of the human cost, the lives she chose to sacrifice to her god of business freedom. That human cost would have been worse if the federal government hadn’t provided paid sick leave for the workers Noem chose to endanger:

Some research suggests that paid sick leave helped “flatten the curve” early in the pandemic. A study published in the journal Health Affairs, for example, found that in states that didn’t have paid leave laws but workers gained paid sick leave through the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, there were an average of about 400 fewer confirmed COVID-19 cases a day in each state between March and May 2020, compared with what the numbers would have been without the emergency measure. The measure expired at the end of 2020.

A Canadian study published earlier this year that looked at the effect of paid sick leave on COVID-19 cases in Ontario reported similar results.

“One clear reason we’re seeing so much momentum and increased success at the state and local level, is the body of research is becoming clearer and clearer that paid sick time is essential for public health,” said Jared Make, vice president at A Better Balance, a national nonprofit that advocates for workers. “Paid sick leave is not only critical for the financial security for individuals, but also for businesses, especially in an age of pandemics when illnesses hurt productivity” [Michael Ollove, “Pandemic Prompts More States to Mandate Paid Sick Leave,” Governing, 2022.09.20].

Paying workers who stay home sick can tamp down the spread of disease. It can also pay off for employers:

The lack of paid leave may also be hurting the margins of businesses. In California, the Department of Labor found that 90 percent of employers, small and large, reported state paid leave provisions had either a positive or neutral effect on “productivity, profit, morale, and costs.” New York experienced similar benefits after the state established a paid family leave policy in 2018, with employers feeling better able to handle extended employee absences. These findings are relevant in the context of COVID-19: Sick employees remaining at work can cause larger outbreaks and disruptions to overall operations [Julia R. Raifman, Will Raderman, Alexandra Skinner, and Rita Hamad, “Paid Leave Policies Can Help Keep Businesses Open and Food on Workers’ Tables,” Health Affairs, 2021.10.25].

New Mexico just enacted a paid sick leave law in July, requiring private employers to give workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. New Mexico is the 17th state to require paid sick leave; the United States is the only wealthy nation not to require paid sick leave.

States requiring paid sick leave, in Ollove, 2022.09.20.
States requiring paid sick leave, in Ollove, 2022.09.20.

South Dakota’s state employees do get paid sick leave. Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) proposed 2022 Senate Bill 145 to require meatpackers to offer paid sick leave during the pandemic; the Noem Administration testified against that bill and saw to its swift death in committee.

South Dakota is all business, but it’s not willing to protect the lives of the workers who make that business possible.


  1. P. Aitch 2022-09-21 06:42

    As a group America learned during the pandemic that 40% of our citizens and 60% of our state governments are worthless in a crisis. That’s critically important data to help plan for “the big one”.
    Even though the non participation group is uncooperative we as a nation can’t just let them die.

  2. larry kurtz 2022-09-21 06:52

    New Mexico is the political inverse of my home state but a brain drain is happening here, too. The good news is that Democrats run everything while in South Dakota white people run everything.

  3. larry kurtz 2022-09-21 06:59

    According to WalletHub New Mexico is among the most culturally diverse state where teachers make good money and the minimum wage is $11.50 while South Dakota is among the least diverse where teachers surf the bottom of the wage scale.

  4. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-21 10:58

    Not providing for paid sick leave is barbaric. Our Legislature has sold out to the big money since WWII.

  5. Edwin Arndt 2022-09-21 12:33

    Paid sick sick leave sounds good but then how many would game the system?
    What kind of controls would be put in place? Doctors certificate? Something else?

    Yesterday the story broke that some lowlifes in Minnesota set up some
    shell entities to use covid money that was meant to feed hungry children. Instead, the
    money went for luxury cars, expensive jewelry and lavish trips, to the tune of
    250 million dollars. No matter how cynical you are, you just can’t keep up.

  6. O 2022-09-21 13:22

    Edwin, maybe we could ask EVERY other industrialized nation who has managed to figure it out. For what it’s worth, why do we always worry about the sickly-and-dime “game the system’ concerns when the owner/1% abuse the system with care-free abandon, seemingly unchecked, unregulated, and unapologetic in their abuse? We need to change where we choose to focus on corruption in this great nation.

  7. bearcreekbat 2022-09-21 14:13

    Edwin raises an interesting point. My recollection is that such an argument (think of the mythological “welfare queen” driving her expensive Cadillac) was made by the Ronald Reagan campaign in order to anger conservatives and turn them against the poor based on a mostly fabricated idea. Ignore the fact that a law might benefit a whole lot of honest folks in need since there will always be the risk that someone not in need might some $$ they are not entitled to.

    Personally, however, I feel it is well worth the risk that someone might “game the system” to pass laws to help those in need, and to punish lawbreakers. The advantages of paid sick leave substantially outweighs the danger of system gaming, since helping families with a sick wage earner and protecting healthy worker from being exposed to contagious illnesses is a greater benefit to society and well as a moral imperative.

  8. John 2022-09-21 14:47

    POTUS Joe’s partial student loan forgiveness puts big money in the pockets of 174,200 South Dakotans.
    Of course, Noem, Thune, Rounds, and Johnson all oppose individual relief – they only support corporate tax write-offs, and loan forgiveness.

    Noem, Thune, Rounds, and Johnson think its okay to write off 20% of the South Dakota voters and . . . their family members.

    Recall that this student loan forgiveness has its genesis in the banksters thievery created by congress. Congress exempted student loans from bankruptcy. Congress and the universities created the corrupt system of college costs that increase faster than any other costs.

  9. Edwin Arndt 2022-09-21 14:54

    BCB, if you can actually get that all done (help the needy, punish lawbreakers)
    I’m all for it.

    This is not the same subject, but my fear is that this country is simply
    too large, too diverse, has too many cultures, to be effectively governed
    as one country. I struggle to find a solution.

  10. P. Aitch 2022-09-21 14:56

    Edwin Edwin Edwin. It’s hard isn’t it?

  11. bearcreekbat 2022-09-21 15:10

    Edwin, when it comes whether we can “get all that done” I have noticed another frequent argument by Reaganites and too many other conservatives. They seem to take the position that if a program to help the needy does not completely end whatever problem it addresses (i.e. “get all that done”) then the program is a “failure.” Thus, the “war on poverty” must have been a failure since there are still poor people. The student loan payoff program will be a failure because there will still be people that owe student loans. The fighting covid and vaccine programs were failures because they didn’t completely eradicate covid, and so on ad infinitum when it comes to programs designed to help those in need.

    Again I view the matter differently. In my personal opinion a program that actually helps a substantially number of people in need is a success even if it is unable to help every single person in need, and, as indicated above, even if some folks not eligible get away with illegally abusing or “gaming” the program. In other words, in my view a demand for “perfection” is the enemy of actually doing something “good.”

  12. Edwin Arndt 2022-09-21 15:13

    It seems to me that if college debt seems insurmountable then perhaps
    college isn’t worth what it cost.

  13. All Mammal 2022-09-21 15:20

    You lie about supporting SD business, Gov Noem. You haven’t dropped a dime to support our economy. You only promote keeping laborers working to death while you cover up the recommended procedures that help confine the virus.
    You lie about respecting South Dakotans’ personal health choices because we chose to use cannabis if we want and you sued us!
    You lie about caring about people because you are causing women to hurt everyday by denying them medicine and appropriate healthcare.
    You lie about having Christian values because you do not show compassion to His children by keeping covid relief money for renters and small businesses. You didn’t even give them their voucher to keep heat on in winter.
    You lie about preferring conservative government because you spend money that isn’t yours and you force the government into my most intimate affairs.
    You lie about your intentions because you ran for office based on lies about your family’s tax obligations.
    You say you are a country girl but you don’t help your neighbors
    You are mean and South Dakota doesn’t get any better when you are playing governor. If you gave one lick about us you would run off to lobby in D.C. and let us move forward in peace. And please, stop fighting to burn down our forest. And free Lisa Ferrier! She’s innocent!

  14. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-21 16:15

    I supervised employees receiving paid sick leave for 35 years or more. Probably over 200 people over the years. I remember 2 occasions when I suspected an employee was trying to game the system….fired one, put the other on probation. It happens, but it doesn’t happen often. One company I worked for gave employees a percentage of their sick leave (50% as I recall) as a bonus when they retired. It was a highly valuable benefit and employees were very appreciative and managed their sick leave. There were other qualifiers for the bonus like longevity and job performance but there was very little gaming of sick time in that company.

  15. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-21 16:38

    I should point out that in most of the companies and organizations I worked for there was a limit to how many hours of sick leave could be accrued. Sick Leave could be accrued and carried over year to year. A policy of limiting sick leave to one year accrual and then starting over the next, invites abuse as some employees will view it as “compensation”, and find ways to use it up each year. I should also point out that life being what it is, many highly valuable employees, as they age in the workplace, will acquire a disease or condition which requires that they use all their sick leave. Cancer, MS, heart attack and stroke, car accidents, all require extensive periods of treatment and recovery. Having a sick leave policy that meets the challenges of personal tragedy
    builds and supports solidarity within the organization.

  16. P. Aitch 2022-09-21 16:42

    @ Edwin – It seems to me that if Republicans hadn’t cut funding to higher education, then universities wouldn’t have had to raise their rates and make an almost inescapable decision to choose higher education carry a cost that’s insurmountable.
    Chew on that Edwin. It was your side that caused the rest of us to have to chip in while the wealthy got off without paying their fair share to educate American youth.

  17. P. Aitch 2022-09-21 16:53

    Good one, All Mammal.

  18. O 2022-09-21 17:00

    I will also pile on that big businesses got to demand fully trained employees to their doorsteps on day one. Not long ago, more of the “trade” business had to incur more of the responsibility and costs of training their employees; now those costs have been passed along to the employee. That helped the boom in our vocational schools.

    Back (closer) to the topic at hand, the US also does not demand paid leave for child birth — something not brought into law with our post-Roe “pro-life “trigger laws.” Neither did those laws in any way help to offset the obscene costs of childbirth.

    There are more workers than owners. At some point, democracy has to reach a tipping point and the interests of the 99% get better represented than the interests of the 1%. I am endlessly frustrated by so many voting so staunchly against their own interests.

  19. P. Aitch 2022-09-21 17:45

    Many companies have replaced sick leave with the same number of days of personal time aka PT. It’s more flexible for the employees and when offering a perk to retain staff it’s about the worker not the company.

  20. Edwin Arndt 2022-09-21 19:16

    Higher ed doesn’t usually get all the money it wants but then their demand
    for funds is voracious and insatiable. I doubt that the higher ed budget gets cut
    often if at all. At least not in North Dakota. I’m all for big business training people
    for a specific job. That would be a lot cheaper than creating those well rounded
    individuals that can really shine at faculty parties.

    As for fair share. What constitutes a fair share and who gets to decide that?

  21. P. Aitch 2022-09-21 21:05

    Edwin: I’ll answer your last question and then provide documentation of my assertion that Republicans often and deeply have cut funding for education.
    – The majority decides what’s fair using the “ability to pay” principle. Under this definition of equity, the “pain” that each person experiences when paying taxes is the same.
    – From the Republican budget conference of 2015: Even though student loan debt already exceeds $1.3 trillion – more than the total of all credit card debt – the conference agreement on the budget guts current policy support for higher education by about $200 billion over ten years.

  22. Edwin Arndt 2022-09-21 21:14

    Anything amortized over ten years and as nebulous as a budget that is reset every year
    can’t be effectively measured.

  23. P. Aitch 2022-09-21 21:17

    You have any documentation of your assertion, Edwin? You never do and that’s why you are just a big, inflated opinion being presented with little credibility.

  24. grudznick 2022-09-21 21:24

    Education needs to be cut to squeeze those fatcat administrators out of their ballooning high 6-figure salaries for sitting around doing nothing. The fatcat administrators at the K-12 and higher levels are the bloat that gores our students and taxpayers. Cut the spigot off and the fatcats will die from thirst.

  25. All Mammal 2022-09-22 02:44

    If the conservative middle class appreciated the advice in the pages of the American classic, Nineteen Eighty-four, they would get over the scraps appropriated to the schools and grants awarded to students and the arts, they wouldn’t flinch at WIC or EBT or section 8, they wouldn’t have a coronary about the needy receiving welfare. When compared to the payouts received at the top, the bottom gets chump change. The poor wouldn’t be such an encroaching menace if the average Joe cracked George Orwell’s novel. There is nothing hidden. Nothing kept secret. The professional class can trace their contribution go right on up to the greediest of the rich and powerful.

    Schit runs downhill. Currency flows to the top.

  26. All Mammal 2022-09-22 03:44

    I apologize. Nineteen Eighty-four isn’t necessarily an American classic. It was written across the pond by an Englishman. It’s setting is Oceana, which was futuristic Great Britain. That confused me while reading it because I wondered how it was in the future if I wasn’t even born in 1984..and I didn’t hear any hint of an English accent… I figured it out. Anyways, keep working, tax everyone and invest it in the people who haven’t grown up yet.

  27. P. Aitch 2022-09-22 08:04

    Wrong, grudz. When Republicans cut funding to higher education numerous times over the last two decades students were charged vastly more for education than any other first world country.
    That Republicans and their MAGA clan find opportunity to criticize canceling students’ debt is indeed irony.

  28. O 2022-09-22 08:12

    Edwin: “As for fair share. What constitutes a fair share and who gets to decide that?” That’s easy, I do. smiles.

  29. O 2022-09-22 08:17

    Grudznick, the error in your reasoning (see, I give you credit for reasoning) is that the fat cat administrators are the entities responsible for budgeting. They are not going to cut their own throats to pass those saving on to their districts, so what is the answer to fundamentally restructure this broken system? What politician is willing to grab that third rail of consolidation?

  30. All Mammal 2022-09-22 12:25

    Without college educated professionals, not only would we lose a big chunk out of who has the ability to do the work and pay the taxes in our country, we would lose out on a major contributor to change and improvement.

    The culture of young adults attending university and expanding their minds is imperative to have a certain class of people who are able to work together to solve problems. We wouldn’t have brought astronauts home safely after walking on the moon’s surface without college kids dropping LSD. We aren’t going to save the planet unless we invest all we have in our young people’s education.
    I challenge Mr. G and Mr. A to come on up with a better way to spend the lettuce…? On bigger government? Higher wages for politicians? On themselves? What else is there but the health and education of our posterity?

  31. Edwin Arndt 2022-09-22 12:59

    The people who brought astronauts home from the moon likely paid their
    college debt without too much trouble. Todays prospective students
    should have learned enough in high school math class to figure out if college is a paying
    proposition or not. That means the student has to pick a major that will enable
    the student to pay back the student loan.

  32. All Mammal 2022-09-22 15:24

    Mr. Arndt- most college grads these days can’t even get a sick day from work. Their employer most likely doesn’t even offer health insurance. One case of Covid can get a college educated professional an eviction notice on their door real quick. Starting a family is not even feasible until the loans are paid, which puts maternity off until a mother is over the hill.

    Like I said before, it is by design the fatcats at the top of the socioeconomic ladder make sure the middle class is always seething at the idea of their tax dollars going to the poor. In actuality, money funnels up. Where it stays. The poor get chump change compared to what the rich are sucking up. Crap runs downhill. Money sucks to the top. That keeps the socioeconomic system working for the conniving wealthy who rely on the middle class to blame the poor for receiving welfare. Look up. That is where you will find the freeloaders.

  33. David Bergan 2022-09-22 15:47

    Does anyone know why we have K-12 public schooling organized in school districts instead of, say, one statewide school administration… or one for each county?

    I generally prefer it when politics attaches at the most local level possible… but I don’t see (yet) what is gained by treating K-12 education that way when the standards are statewide. Why is it better to have 150 superintendents instead of 15?

    Regarding higher education… I think part of the reason it costs so much is because America has developed a sort of caste system around post-secondary education. A college degree is not just a ticket to better job and mate prospects, it’s almost a requirement. (A woman with a college degree rarely marries a man without one.) And it’s not about what is being learned… when a disinterested student gets a C in a required philosophy class, it doesn’t actually help the student or his future employers. And that experience isn’t worth the ~$5,000 tuition for the student, the employer, or society as a whole. Even when one student lights up and becomes a Plato fanatic, there are far more economical ways to create that spark than mandate that the whole class pays an obscene amount.

    Here are a couple of professors talking about this phenomenon.

    Kind regards,

  34. All Mammal 2022-09-22 17:24

    Good questions and aspect, David. In my experience, the entire relevancy of a college credit is based on the person teaching the class. The best professors are definitely worth the tuition while the rest of the course load can be superficial and an obnoxious waste to everyone.

    Technical school, however, is a wise route for many and I wish it was more accessible with transferable credits. Maybe specific industries could join up and match tuition for their workforce. If a certain sector is struggling to find prospects, they could incentivize people to get the training by shouldering some of the financial burden. That would also result in long term employment and eliminate costly new hire training.

    Like every American institution, it is half pomp, part larceny, and part degenerate. We somehow make due.

  35. Mark Anderson 2022-09-22 20:05

    Read Edwin and wonder why bother, read Gruds and you know why bother. Cory, of course Noem runs on keeping South Dakota open. She leaves the details of allowing twice as many people die as all of Australia. It’s hard to run on killing people.

  36. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-22 20:19 are correct as usual…great to have you back.

  37. grudznick 2022-09-22 20:50

    Mostly, grudznick worries about keeping eateries open, not moonshots and why the poor, minimum wage worker has to pay to absolve some PhD kid from $10K of her debt. But Mr. O and Ms. Mammal do have some pretty good points.

  38. larry kurtz 2022-09-22 21:13

    Eat the rich with gravy taters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.