On tonight's Common Council agenda, an item reads:
G. Reports and Recommendations
1. Ordinance to Create Chapter 191 of the Municipal Code Relating to the Non-Regulation
of Employee Wages or Benefits for Private Businesses (Ald. Olson).
Were it a more honest or prosaic document, the agenda item would more accurately read as follows:
G. Reports and Recommendations
1. Extraction of Business Loyalty Oaths, election brochure bullet point creation, prevention of unified action by a populous whose potential judgment and actions are feared (Ald. Olson).
To pluck from the array of folksy platitudes that regularly emanate from Alderman Steve Olson: This is "a solution looking for a problem" (I harvested that one from the 2/3/09 Common Council discussion on dog leashes).
It is also clearly an indication that Alderman Olson - who has shrewdly designed the unneeded ordinance so a vote against it seems to be a vote against business - appears to fear the will of the electorate.
Let's pretend that this ordinance (see below) actually had something to do with paid sick leave.
FACT: There is no Sick Pay law or rule pending in or suggested for Franklin.
FACT: The City of Milwaukee's Sick Pay Law has been suspended by the courts and faces review.
FACT: If a Sick Pay law actually "threatened" to be imposed on Franklin, the Common Council could enact a blocking ordinance in a matter of hours.
FACT: The Franklin electorate has not shown itself to be predisposed toward generating a Paid Sick Leave ordinance, and the needs of the working population of Franklin are different than that of an urban core that very much needs a sick leave law of some sort.
Now, consider this:
Number of times Alderman Olson's proposed ordinance mentions the phrase "paid sick leave": ZERO
Number of times Alderman Olson's proposed ordinance mentions the word "sick": ZERO
This is not an ordinance that surgically prevents Paid Sick Leave. However, the ordinance does eliminate the ability of the electorate to effect direct legislation as it applies to employee wages and benefits.
In other words, the Franklin Common Council is going to enact an ordinance that takes away the power of direct legislation from the people of Franklin - - the ability to petition for reform as needed and requested by the people of the city - - under the guise of simply "preventing paid sick leave."
(This fact has not gone unnoticed by blogger Fred Keller.)
Think of it: As we face the most seismic economic event of our lifetimes; as blue- and white-color workers alike begin to flood the unemployment pool; as uncertainty looms large in the months and years ahead: Alderman Olson is saying NONREGULATION is our only hope, and we need to take away the right of the people to petition directly for reform as the situation unfolds.
Ludicrous. But the ordinance will pass because Olson is savvy enough to position this as a Loyalty Oath for members of the Common Council. He has briefed his public relations blogger (who has apparently not even read the ordinance but managed to dutifully pass along a veiled threat nonetheless: "If an alderman or two vote against this pro-business, pro-jobs measure, it will be very telling"), and rest assured Alderman Olson already has draft language of his "pro-business stand" in his re-election brochure. He will vilify any aldermen who dare see this ordinance for what it is and properly move to set it aside or vote against it.
I predict that no alderman will vote against it. I could speak against the ordinance and vote against recommending it as an Economic Development Commissioner because my position there is not an elective office; I have much more latitude than an alderman. Barring a miracle, this will pass tonight, easily.
So, what's in this ordinance for us? The loss of one of our basic rights as citizens as we enter "interesting times." What's in it for certain members of the Common Council? Re-election fodder.
One company that will be very pleased and will once again contribute to the re-election efforts of those aldermen who toe the line will be Wal-Mart.
Because of paid sick leave? No - were it only so simple. With their enormous cash reserves and monolithic leverage against suppliers, Wal-Mart may well emerge the "last man standing" in retail and grocery for a period of time as businesses fold and pull back. They will be looking at an enormous pool of former full-time workers looking for new full-time work, and when you have 50 people applying for five full-time positions, you can do things like eliminate ALL full-time positions and convert everyone to part-time.
Think they won't do it? Guess again.
And what will the citizens of Franklin - - who can rightly assert that waivers, subsidies, and other benefits granted by the city to Wal-Mart should be repaid in the form of at least a few full-time jobs - - be able to do about that situation if this ordinance passes?
Nothing. That right is stripped from the populous by this ordinance.
Because someone fears the potential will of the people.
Below, the ordinance minus the "whereas's":
AN ORDINANCE TO CREATE CHAPTER 191 OF THE MUNICIPAL CODE RELATING TO THE NON-REGULATION OF EMPLOYEE WAGES OR BENEFITS FOR PRIVATE BUSINESSES
SECTION 1: Chapter 191 of the Municipal Code of the City of Franklin, Wisconsin, is hereby created to read as follows:
“Chapter 191 PRIVATE BUSINESS EMPLOYEE WAGE AND BENEFIT NON-REGULATION
§191-1. Limitation of municipal regulation.
No ordinance of the City of Franklin or any other municipal ordinance, rule, or regulation shall require that any private employer provide particular wages or benefits to its employees or set forth the amount or type of any employee wage or benefit provided an employee working within the City or doing business with the City, except as may be required by another governmental agency funded project, such as the Community Development Block Grant program or the like, or by way of State or Federal statute or administrative code or rule. ”
SECTION 2: The terms and provisions of this ordinance are severable. Should any term or provision of this ordinance be found to be invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, the remaining terms and provisions shall remain in full force and effect.
SECTION 3: All ordinances and parts of ordinances in contravention to this ordinance are hereby repealed.
SECTION 4: This ordinance shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage and publication.