In 2008, Milwaukee, Wisconsin became the third city in America to guarantee workers paid sick leave, joining Washington D.C. and San Fransisco. These cities are stepping up to fill a void left by the federal government, which is content to leave America as one of the only countries in the developed world that does not guarantee workers paid time off if they are sick.
The sick leave law was approved by referendum — with nearly 70 percent of voters in favor — and was upheld a few weeks ago by the state's court of appeals. However, Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature passed a bill preempting the city's law and ensuring that no jurisdiction within the state of Wisconsin is allowed to decide it wants to mandate paid sick days. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) — who gained notoriety for proposing a law stripping public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights and sparking mass protests — signed the anti-sick leave bill into law today:
Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that prohibits local governments from passing ordinances guaranteeing workers' paid sick and family leave...Walker, a Republican, says in a statement the bill removes another barrier to creating jobs.
But Walker's concern about job-loss is overblown. The Drum Major Institute conducted a study examining San Francisco's paid sick leave law and found "no evidence that businesses in San Francisco have been negatively impacted by the enactment of paid sick leave." In fact, the U.S. economy as a whole loses $180 billion in productivity annually due to sick employees attending work and infecting other workers.
Despite Walker's misguided action, as the National Association of Working Women noted, plenty of other cities are forging ahead with paid sick leave legislation:
In Philadelphia, a paid sick days bill was passed out of a City Council committee a few weeks ago, and in Connecticut, the state legislature is moving forward on a bill with bipartisan support. Paid sick days legislation in New York City has 35 City Council sponsors, legislation is about to be introduced in Seattle, and more than a dozen states have coalitions advocating actively for paid sick days and paid family leave policies. San Francisco and Washington, DC have already implemented paid sick days laws.
In the end, repealing Milwaukee's paid sick leave law is simply one more way in which Walker is undertaking his assault on Wisconsin's workers.
Wonk Room, Thurs May 5 2011