Republican state legislators seek to repeal or block paid sick days standards

April 4, 2013 | Alex Stone

milwaukee paid sick days signature delivery

Paid sick days advocates in Milwaukee deliver signatures to put a paid sick days measure on the ballot in 2008. (Flickr/Dave Moore)

As local paid sick days law become more popular around the nation – with three cities establishing paid sick days standards in March 2013 alone – Republican state legislators are moving to repeal the laws and/or block future implementation of city ordinances governing paid sick time.

The first instance came in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2011. Following a citizen’s initiative that established Milwaukee’s paid sick days standard with 69% in favor, Republican legislators and Governor Scott Walker nullified the ordinance in April of 2011 by state law.

The same tactic has been employed in Florida, where a ballot measure to establish a paid sick days standard in Orange County was illegally blocked from the 2012 ballot by county commissioners working with big business lobbyists. The ordinance has been scheduled for a vote in 2013, but Republican state legislators in Florida are hoping to make it a moot point with House Bill 655, which would preempt any municipal standards for paid sick time, as well as kill existing “living wage” ordinances.

Florida House Majority Leader Steve Precourt, an Orlando Republican carrying the House bill, saidthe move was needed now because of “momentum for those things … building” around the country. The Orlando Sentinel reports “[the repeal] effort [is] backed by powerful business interests such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Walt Disney World.”

Republican legislators in Washington state are also attempting to repeal and redefine Seattle’s paid sick days ordinance, which went into effect in September 2012. Two bills were introduced in the conservative Washington State Senate in 2013, both sponsored by a Republican state senator. One of the bills would nullify Seattle’s law, and the other would exempt any business that also operates outside the city – like Burger King, for example. While it appears the bill that would nullify Seattle’s standard is now dead, the bill restricting which businesses it applies to is still under consideration by the state Senate.

The latest effort is by Republican state legislators in Michigan, who have the state House and Senate both under firm control, and a Republican Governor in Rick Snyder. Bills to ensure no cities adopt paid sick days standards are moving quickly through the Michigan legislature, despite the fact that no cities in Michigan have adopted a sick days standard.

State governments in Louisiana and Mississippi have also passed bills prohibiting cities from establishing minimum standards for paid sick days. The Huffington Post reports similar repeal bills are on the docket in Arizona, Indiana, and Oklahoma, and ties them back to the work of theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council, a big business lobbying group funded by large corporations.

Nearly everywhere polls have been conducted, people have expressed strong support for paid sick days measures. For example, in Michigan, a survey conducted March 21st found 3 in 5 people supported paid sick days, with widespread support across regions, ages, gender and party affiliations. Polling in Portland, OR revealed similar support at 60%, while a national poll conducted in 2010 found 86% supported a paid sick days standard.

Although polling data shows majority support for paid sick days, corporate lobbying organizations with members like Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC are organizing across the country to oppose them. But contrary to these conglomerates, plenty of small business owners see the value in paid sick days, and are willing to speak up for them. It’s clear who the opponents of paid sick days represent – and it’s clearly not the majority.

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