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Milwaukee paid sick days coalition vows to fight on

July 28, 2011


Politics trumped justice and the will of the people in Milwaukee today, as a circuit court judge ruled that a new state law prevented him from following the orders of a higher court to implement the city’s paid sick days ordinance. Implementation has been delayed since November 2008, when the ordinance was voted into law by an overwhelming majority of the electorate.

Judge Thomas Cooper expressed regret at the politics which robbed Milwaukee voters of their paid sick days win, but ruled that his hands are tied by a new state law whose drafting he put squarely on the shoulders of the corporate lobbyists at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

9to5 Milwaukee, which spearheaded the broad coalition that organized the ballot victory, vowed to continue its fight “until paid sick days is the law of the land in Milwaukee and nationwide.”

“This decision goes against the will of Milwaukee voters and the laws that protect local governance for all Wisconsinites,” said Dana Schultz, Lead Organizer for 9to5 Milwaukee. “We are outraged at the corporate and political interests that have for two and a half years thwarted the will of the people and tried to rob Milwaukee voters of their hard-fought victory for paid sick days.”

Joining 9to5 and other coalition partners at the courthouse were workers who had lost their jobs or had to come to work sick because of the failure to implement paid sick days. Melody  is a homecare worker who told 9to5, “If this ordinance was in place, I wouldn’t always have to be on the brink of losing my job and going to work sick.” Food service worker Nathaniel talked about having to work sick and risk passing it on to customers because he couldn’t afford to lose a day’s pay or his job.

During today’s hearing, Judge Cooper pointed out that the Court of Appeals had ruled against each of the legal challenges filed by the MMAC. The Judge also noted MMAC’s role in drafting Wisconsin Act 16 with a “bull’s eye on Milwaukee.” The bill, which was pushed through the state Senate with no debate when the Democratic senators were still absent in early March, prohibits local municipalities from legislating on matters of paid sick days.

In 2008, nearly 70% of Milwaukee voters approved a ballot initiative to provide paid sick days for workers in the city. This March, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals issued a decision to uphold the law, which would provide 120,000 Milwaukee families who do not have paid sick days the freedom to take care of themselves or ill family members without fear of losing their jobs or a paycheck.

Because the statute authorizing ballot initiatives requires that such laws cannot be amended or repealed for two years, attorneys for 9to5 argued that Act 16 does not apply to Milwaukee for that period of time.

“At a time when hard-working Wisconsinites need leaders who will stand up for us, corporate lobbyists like the MMAC have taken hold of our government,” said Schultz, noting Governor Walker signed the bill at the offices of the MMAC. “With the support of voters and hard-working Milwaukeeans behind us, we are considering the next steps in fighting to have the people’s voices heard, a healthier workforce and a stronger economy.

“Every day the paid sick days law is delayed costs Wisconsin families jobs and income,” added Schultz. “We are sick and tired of the corporate lobbyists running this town and now state.” She noted the momentum for paid sick days across the nation which had been inspired by the victory in Milwaukee and elsewhere, and stressed the coalition’s determination to keep on fighting.




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