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Florida’s sick-time conundrum goes national, global; New York City simultaneously gets sick time

June 27, 2013
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sicktime

In yet another round of public shaming for the Sunshine State, Rick Scott’s refusal to veto HB 655 a couple weeks ago – something we railed about on WMFE 90.7 FM last week – has now gotten the big media treatment. First, there was a story in progressive page-turner Mother Jones titled “Forced to Work Sick? That’s Fine With Disney, Red Lobster and Their Friends at ALEC,” which, in addition to connecting the dots between the other pre-emption measures peppering conservative legislatures nationwide, points out how screwed up Florida’s handling of the situation was. Orange County, y’all!

The Florida bill was an especially bitter defeat for paid sick leave advocates. The movement was gathering steam in Orange County, home to Disney World and the state’s famous theme parks. The county has many low-wage workers, nearly 50 percent of whom don’t have paid sick leave. Last year, a grassroots effort emerged and attempted to let voters decide whether to create a paid sick leave ordinance in the county. Polling showed that the idea was hugely popular, and organizers managed to come up with more than 50,000 petition signatures to put it on the ballot last November.

The conservative board of county commissioners, though, with heavy pressure from Disney and big restaurant chains, repeatedly refused to put the measure on the ballot, arguing that it was, among other things, a “job killer.” During a hearing on the issue in September, Orange County’s mayor got text messages from a Disney lobbyist coaching her on how to oppose the sick leave vote. The local GOP chair also texted commissioners urging them to delay the vote as long as possible so the Legislature could “deliver the kill shot.”

Eventually, a judge ruled in January that the commission had broken the law and ordered the vote to go forward. But it was too late. In April, the GOP-controlled state Legislature did as promised and passed the preemption bill before the ballot measure could be put before the voters.

“These guys are bullies,” says Stephanie Porta, the director of the Orlando-based progressive group Organize Now, which helped put the measure on the ballot, referring to the state Legislature and her local county commissioners.

Altogether more unexpected though was the notice the story got from UK newspaper The Guardian. “The GOP Wants You to Go to Work Sick,” also published today, rings with even more hyperbolic judgement of Florida’s business-hugging blunder. After referencing the “Satanic mills era of industrial relations,” the piece concludes that this bullion coated slope is only likely to get slipperier and more painful for American workers.

The political football between state and local governments is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon at the federal level. Unlike every other rich country in the world, ours is a nation that prides itself on upholding the traditions of our founders by not offering things like paid vacations or maternal (or paternal) leave. And so workers groups will continue their piecemeal efforts to drag the US, city by city, into the last century, while Republican state lawmakers – the same ones who routinely restrict access to abortion in defiance of federal law, refuse to implement Obamacare and claim the right to draw up their own immigration enforcement schemes – find themselves in the awkward position of intervening against local control in the name of central government.

An old saying about consistency and hobgoblins comes to mind.

HOBGOBLINS!!!! But, just in case you were wondering what an effective local government was, today New York’s city commission overrode Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of a sick-time measure, effectively enacting protections for that city’s workers. We should be so lucky! We aren’t.

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