Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity Features Paid Sick Days Fight in MilwaukeeMay 23, 2011
Paid Sick Days for the Working Poor: A Test for Democracy in Wisconsin
Here’s the lesson from the recent political fight in Milwaukee: when democracy decides, paid sick days and working people win. A second lesson: when corporate lobbyists interfere in the democratic process, low-wage workers often lose.
The fight began when, in early 2008, an alliance of nearly 50 organizations, spearheaded by the Milwaukee chapter of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, organized a successful local ballot campaign to guarantee the right of all workers in the city to earn paid sick leave.
Enthusiasm for the campaign mounted as members of the diverse coalition gathered signatures. In immigrant communities, labor halls, child care centers, job sites, congregations, and community festivals, activists distributed materials and signed up supporters. They needed 26,500 signatures—and turned in 42,000.
Weekly events cemented that support. Rallies and forums highlighted the scope of benefits that paid sick days would bring for a variety of stakeholders—those fighting asthma, employers concerned about boosting productivity and lowering turnover, advocates seeking an end to violence, restaurant workers who didn’t want to serve flu along with fries, and educators horrified at the number of sick children whose parents were unable to stay home with them without risking a paycheck or a job (Continue reading).