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If Democracy Had Prevailed: Bittersweet Win for Orange County Voters

August 27, 2014

from our partners at the Orange Rising Coalition in Orange County, Florida, August 26, 2014

On Women’s Equality Day, a years long battle to bring Earned Sick Time benefits to Orange County workers culminated with a victory supporters are calling “bittersweet” since the new standards voters approved will never go into effect. The lack of Earned Sick Time hits working women especially hard – because it is most often women who have the responsibility for caring for a sick child or other family member.

Vanessa Ramos and her children fight for Earned Sick Time

Vanessa Ramos and her children were part of the fight for Earned Sick Time in Orange County.

“It was gratifying to hear the voters raise their voice in support of Earned Sick Time at the ballot box,” said veteran sick time advocate Stephanie Porta. “But the victory is bittersweet for hardworking Orange County families. This victory is especially hollow for women who still won’t see any relief when we need to recuperate from an illness or care for a loved one as women are frequently called on to do.”

According to court rulings, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners first tried to change the rules, and then violated its own charter to keep voters from having a real chance to vote on Earned Sick Time. An investigation also concluded commissioners violated sunshine laws by deleting text messages from business lobbyists who were directing them to block a meaningful vote on Earned Sick Time.

Today’s elections results follow a report issued just last week that found nearly three in four accommodation and food service workers in Orange County lack access to Earned Sick Time. The new analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that 45 percent of workers living in Orange County lack even a single paid sick day. This lack of access is especially pronounced among Hispanic workers, with 56 percent lacking access to paid sick days.

 “Paid sick days are an inexpensive, effective tool for promoting public health,” said Barbara Gault, IWPR Vice President and Executive Director. And Orange County voters clearly agree.

“Sadly, County Commissioners, Big Business lobbyists and legislators silenced their voices today,” Porta said. “Voters approved a measure presented to them on their ballot but it won’t be implemented. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.”

“So much for democracy or conservative principles of local control,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work. “It’s outrageous that the clear will of Orange County voters on earned sick days will be ignored.  “Floridians should not have to worry about losing a day’s wages – or worse, a job – when they get sick. Yet Gov. Scott and the legislature’s major overreach of power and violation of home rule has effectively disenfranchised Florida voters.”

“Women turned out in large numbers and voted for Earned Sick Time to send a message to politicians: more women than ever are working to support families and it’s time to update the rules so women can have fair access to Earned Sick Time and succeed on the job,” said Denise Diaz, Director of Central Florida Jobs with Justice. “When women and families succeed, Florida is better off. Politicians who are against Earned Sick Time are on the wrong side of women voters – a risky place to be on Election Day.”

“If voters had been given a fair shake, we would have passed Earned Sick Time benefits in 2012 and today our community would be healthier and our economy would be stronger,” Porta said. “But the struggle will continue until the voice of voters is heard and hardworking families have the same opportunity to care for their loved ones that the politicians and lobbyists do today.”



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