What do you do when the electorate votes overwhelmingly against the wishes of business and instead recognizes the needs of working families who do not, by and large, contribute to your campaign fund?
Why, you attempt to add a little barbed wire to the little medieval wall around your suburb with a meaningless ordinance, of course.
When asked if paid sick leave should be mandatory in the City of Milwaukee, 69% voted for the referendum; 31% against.
Business killer? Hardly. As explained at hrtools.com:
The binding referendum provides that all private sector employees employed within the city will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, but no more than 72 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year ( i.e., nine paid sick days per year with accruals to be carried over from year to year to a maximum of 72 hours). Employees of a “small business,” defined as a company with fewer than 10 workers (including part-time and temporary workers), accrue a maximum bank of 40 hours per calendar year ( i.e., five paid sick days per year). Employees begin to accrue paid sick leave immediately upon beginning their employment, but are not entitled to use the accrued sick leave until the 90th calendar day following the start of employment. The referendum would apply to full, part-time and temporary employees, salaried or hourly workers.
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce Inc., predictably, sued the City of Milwaukee to prevent the rule from going into effect on February 10th as mandated.
Some people don't necessarily empathize with persons whose employment and family situations make a simple visit to the doctor precarious. They don't know what it's like to get a call from your child's school saying that he or she is ill and needs to be picked up - but you have 5 hours left on your shift and certainly cannot afford losing the next day at home with your sick child. They have not seen their hours cut or been dismissed outright because of "absences."
They haven't seen kids sent to school very, very sick for the reasons above.
Let's appeal to self-interest: They don't worry - but should - about the restaurant worker preparing their meal, who is "gutting it out" with an infection rather than miss the day's wages. About $60 -$75 in his or her pocket; wiggly bacteria in your pita.
These same people don't see the need for hourly workers to maintain preventative care in the form of regular checkups and health maintenance.
They don't know that more than three in every four workers - 76% - in the bottom quarter of earnings have no paid sick days.
Can they imagine being the working single mother of a child with a chronic illness?
My wife is a grade school guidance counselor for a nearby district. She sees kids coming to school in terrible shape because their parent - usually a single mom - absolutely cannot take the day off. And the child will probably not see a doctor for the same reason. She knows of at least one parent who lost her job due to illness-related absences; if you're a single parent with three kids, that's four potential illnesses for which you alone are responsible.
It's usually a woman, by the way, facing these pressures and threats, which is why the paid sick days referendum was championed by the National Association of Working Women.
Child care, elder care, self care; none of these factors seem significantly meaningful to opponents of paid sick leave. Because they don't have to deal with those sorts of things.
A couple of suburbs (West Allis and South Milwaukee) have presumptively enacted or proposed ordinances that would prohibit mandatory paid sick leave in their leafy enclaves. Should it ever rear its ugly head.
If Franklin Alderman Steve Olson has his way, my community will join the "honor roll" of suburbs who choose to proactively ignore the needs of people not quite as well-off as most. Wave a big, preemptive flag: DON'T EVEN TRY THAT STUFF AROUND HERE!
Fortunately, Olson did not get the quick pass (and accolades) he expected when he introduced the proposal. It's been sent to the Finance, Personnel, and Economic Development Commission (of which I am a member) for their/our input.
This pause for - gasp - thoughtful review and possible alterations did not make Alderman Olson happy. He sent a helpful nudge-note out to the members of the Common Council, along with a link to a website that he supposed would help his colleagues make up their minds:
From: Steve Olson
Sent: Thu 1/8/2009 4:32 PM
To: Alderman; Tom Taylor
Cc: Mark Luberda
Subject: Sick Pay Ordinance
Lady and Gentlemen:
Since there's some hesitancy to make a policy decision about my proposed
ordinance, I refer you all to the link below for additional information that
may help you make a decision on whether preempting sick pay and other
employee benefit direct legislation is a good idea or not.
Since Finance, Personnel and EDC are kicking the cat I'm asking Mark to
forward the link to those committee members as well.
Alderman, 1st District
Yup - he sent them (us) to a business advocacy site set up to support the business-led lawsuit against paid sick leave.
"May help you make a decision...".
So low is his regard for those who slow his progress toward erection of a statue to Alderman Olson in the business park?
This "policy decision" would be better stated as a morality decision. This is a proposal that says: "In advance of any threat to mandate sick days in Franklin, let's go ahead and be vindictive."
I will argue against the superfluous proposed ordinance in my role as a member of the Economic Development Commission - - though I realize I will be a voice in the wilderness in that regard (I spoke with Alderman Steve Taylor about the issue, for instance, and we are on opposite sides).
However, I can foresee a situation where even those who are very much against mandated sick leave will also be against this preemptive, self-indulgent ordinance-for-the-sake-of-chest-thumping ("Look at us! Pro-business!!! Pro-business!!!"). It's just mean-spirited and would paint our city - - and our leaders - - as desperate for the approval of certain elements of the business community.
I think we're better than that.
More at Franklin Today.
UPDATE: Count the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as fans of communities proactively prohibiting sick leave ordinances in one of today's editorials (which I obviously disagree with), and reexamining the current law (which makes more sense - the law should exist in some form).
UPDATE 2: Illusory Tenant points out an interesting conflict of interest that may explain the MJS editorial stance.