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Huge Victory For Wisconsin Workers, Milwaukeeans Rally: State Legislature Seeking to Overturn Paid Sick Day Ordinance Approved by Voters, Courts

March 24, 2011

MILWAUKEE—Following this morning’s historic Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision to uphold the Milwaukee’s paid sick day ordinance, a broad coalition of Milwaukee Alders, working people, health care advocates and good governance groups rallied at City Hall.  The group gathered to call on the State Legislature to halt efforts to preempt the city’s law and to respect the court’s decision and the votes of nearly 70% of the Milwaukee electorate who approved the groundbreaking law.  The court’s historic ruling lifts a two-year injunction that has halted implementation of the paid sick day law.

“Milwaukeeans have made their decision on paid sick days, and now the courts have upheld their vote,” said Dana Schultz, Lead Organizer for 9to5, the National Association of Working Women.  “The State Legislature should not be trying to rob voters in Milwaukee and cities across the state of their basic right to local decision-making on sick days or any other laws.”
“Wisconsin courts are making decisions to protect working families and voters,” said Schultz.  “It’s time for the State Legislature to stop its attacks on hard-working families and get to work on policies that will help create jobs and grow our economy.”

The group called on state Assembly Members to vote against the bill that would strip local municipalities of some of their legislative power.  The Sick Days Scam (AB41) would preempt local governments and voters from enacting the Milwaukee paid sick day legislation, and in doing so, open the door for the State Legislature to overturn a range of legislation passed in towns and cities throughout Wisconsin.  The state Senate already passed the bill with no debate when the Democratic senators were still absent in early March.

“This bill is inconsistent with Wisconsin’s tradition of local municipalities having discretion, whether through direct legislation or their own power, to shape these matters,” said Kathleen Dolan, Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  “It is also inconsistent with the Republican ideology that says, ‘Leave the states alone, one size does not fit all, top down is not always the best thing.’  Here they are trying to impose a position on localities who may want to determine their own needs.”

Wisconsin has a rich history of local governance, in which municipalities enact legislation that best meets the needs of their communities.  In 2008, nearly 70% of Milwaukee voters approved a law to provide paid sick days for workers in the city.  The law would provide 120,000 Milwaukee families who do not have paid sick days of the freedom to take care of ill family members without fear of losing their jobs or a paycheck.

“The voters spoke in 2008. The court has now spoken,” said James H. Hall, Jr., President of the NAACP Milwaukee Branch.  “From the beginning, NAACP Milwaukee Branch has supported this measure which clearly benefits working people and citizens of Milwaukee. NAACP will continue to support workers’ rights and vigorously oppose other measures that undercut the rights of all citizens of Milwaukee.”

New research on paid sick day laws in other cities shows significant benefits for workers and minimal impact on businesses.  A study last month of San Francisco’s paid sick days law shows business concerns about job loss were unfounded, with six in seven employers saying that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability and two-thirds of employers surveyed supporting the law.  Other studies have shown that employees are healthier and more productive when they have access to paid sick days.

“Providing paid sick days helps workers keep their jobs,” said Amy L. Kirkland, RN and President of Nurses & Medical Staffing, Inc.  “That’s good for business owners, saves us money in turnover and health care costs, and boosts productivity.”

The Court of Appeal’s decision lifts a two-year injunction that has halted implementation of the paid sick day law. Before the law could be implemented, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) had filed suit against the City of Milwaukee challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance.  9to5, National Association of Working Women intervened in the case and continued to defend the ordinance through the state court system.
During the rally, a number of working people spoke about the need for paid sick days. Rhonda Willette, an organizer at 9to5 Wisconsin, shared her daughter’s story.   “At eight months pregnant, my daughter had an asthma attack.  When she returned to work three days later with a medical statement, she was fired. She hadn’t been there long enough to qualify for FMLA. No one would hire her at eight months pregnant, and she became homeless.”




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